The spurs’ decline in 3-point accuracy project spurs gas 47 cents

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A season ago, the San Antonio Spurs were the most accurate 3-point shooting team in the league, as the Spurs made 39.1% of their threes during the 2016-17 season. A season later, the Spurs dropped all the way down to 26 th in 3-point accuracy, making only 35.2% of their attempts.

After digging through the data, there are multiple reasons why the Spurs saw a drop in their accuracy. Two major factors for the Spurs’ drop in accuracy from three this season were the absence of their best player Kawhi Leonard due to injury, and a few accurate shooters a season ago declined this past season.

Let’s begin by going through each of the Spurs’ top seven 3-point shooters over the last two seasons. The reason seven shooters are selected is that over the last two seasons, the Spurs have relied on seven specific players to attempt over 100 threes each season, and most of the team’s percentage from three is based on how well those seven shooters shoot.

Focusing solely on 3-point shooting, Leonard’s absence this season meant Forbes became the shooter to take more 3-pointers. A season ago, Leonard accounted for 19.5% of the Spurs’ made 3s, where he shot 38% on those attempts. When healthy, Leonard is a unique player who can create his own 3-point shot, and he doesn’t have to rely on others to create open looks for him. Only 78% of Leonard’s 3-point makes were assisted a season ago.

This season, Forbes shot a better percentage than Leonard did last season, at 39%, but he just doesn’t have the volume that Leonard had. Forbes accounted for 12.7% of the Spurs’ made 3s this season, which is a steep drop off from Leonard’s 19.5%. Forbes also needed teammates to create open looks for him, as 95% of his 3-point makes this season were assisted.

With Leonard out this past season, the largest chunk of the Spurs’ made 3-pointers fell on Mills’ shoulders. He made a team-high 22.1% of the Spurs’ threes this season, but, even with the increase in minutes, Mills saw a decrease in the amount of wide open 3-point shots he was getting compared to last season. Mills’ accuracy also dropped by 4% this season, though he was still above league average as a shooter from three.

The responsibility of making the second most percentage of the Spurs’ points from three fell on Green’s shoulders. He barely shot above league average from distance overall and with Leonard out, Green saw a decrease in his amount of wide-open 3s, though he did make a higher percentage of those shots this season.

Ginobili had his worst 3-point shooting season since the 2008-09 season when he made 33% of his looks. Leonard being unavailable might have had an effect on Ginobili’s performance too. This season, Ginobili saw his usage rate increase from 20.6% last season to 21.9% this season, placing him in the 75 th percentile among wings. The extra responsibility to have to create on offense might have had an impact on his legs when shooting the three ball. The data suggests this too since Ginobili got more wide open 3s this season, but his accuracy dropped by 7%. Then again, maybe father time is catching up to him at 40 years old.

Bertans had more responsibility this season from three, as he made the third most amount of threes on the team. Though his accuracy dropped by 2% this season, Bertans still finished the season shooting above league average from three. Bertans was also able to get his same percentage of wide open 3s and he increased his accuracy on those shots.

Like Ginobili, Gasol dropped dramatically compared to the accuracy he shot with from three last season. An interesting reason as to why Gasol’s accuracy declined might have been due to a shoulder injury he endured in early March. From the start of the season through March 6, Gasol was making 38.2% of his threes, a number above league average. After the team announced he had a right AC sprain (shoulder area), Gasol’s accuracy dropped to 22.2% from three from March 7 to the end of the season.

Jonathon Simmons’ 102 three-point attempts a season ago were basically swapped for Rudy Gay’s 118 three-point attempts this season. Both players shot below league average when with the Spurs over the last two seasons and the team didn’t rely on them too much to make outside looks.

Overall, the Spurs really missed having an elite player like Leonard on the floor this season, not just because of Leonard’s playmaking ability, but also because Leonard himself was someone the team could count on as one of their best 3-point options each night. In the event Ginobili returns to play at age 41, it’ll be interesting to see if he can bring his 3-point accuracy back up if the team doesn’t increase his usage as much as they did this season. For Gasol, getting that right shoulder injury healthy should bring his 3-point accuracy back up above league average.