Just as a stomach virus has swept through their locker room in recent weeks, the Spurs have been plagued by another epidemic. That’s how head coach Gregg Popovich has framed his team’s sudden inability to protect the ball, hoping it will diminish just as quickly as it appeared. The Spurs have committed a total of 61 turnovers through three games of their four-game road swing,
dropping them to 29th in total turnovers committed (116, 16.6 per game) and 25th in turnover percentage (16.1).
They’ll finish up their West Coast trip Tuesday at the Lakers — mercifully, a team that ranks near the bottom of the league in turnovers forced.
Troubling as those numbers are individually, they become even more so compared to last season, when the Spurs ranked third in both categories en route to leading the NBA in offensive efficiency.
They currently boast the No. 8 offense in the league at 105.7 points per 100 possessions – still well above the league average, but more than five points off last year’s place.
The Spurs are averaging roughly three more turnovers per game than last season, and the main culprits are easy enough to identify. Manu Ginobili is up almost a full turnover per game, from 1.9 to 2.8. Kawhi Leonard has had an even tougher time, jumping from 0.7 to 2.0.
Conversely, Matt Bonner, who had the lowest turnover rate of any player in the NBA last season at 3.2 percent, has seen his playing time roughly cut in half. Add fractional increases for a handful of other players, and not even Tim Duncan’s career-low turnover percentage is enough to offset the difference.
That Ginobili and Leonard bear the most responsibility for the Spurs’ sudden sloppiness could actually be a good thing. Ginobili is still rounding into shape after missing the first two games of the regular season and parts of training camp with multiple injuries. Leonard, meanwhile, is only just getting acclimated to an increased role that has seen his usage and minutes increase.
Yet another potential bit of silver lining: The last time the Spurs were this careless with the basketball was 2002-03, a season in which they also happened to win the championship.
Related link: Spurs Nation