Starting in 1997, the San Antonio Spurs own the highest winning percentage of any team out of the four major North American professional sports. The Spurs, anchored by Tim Duncan, forged an identity as one of the best defensive teams of their era on the way to four NBA Championships. Since their last championship in 2007, the NBA has changed to a quicker perimeter oriented league. The Spurs can no longer count on an aging Duncan or their once heralded defense. To adjust to the new rules, Gregg Popovich has turned the keys of his offense over to his perimeter players. Now coaching the offense with the best Offenseive Rating in the NBA, Popovich has shown he isn't just a defensive guru, but an all around basketball genius.
The Spurs run an equal opportunity motion style offense. Players are asked to fill certain positions on the floor and run through a sequence of options based on where offensive players are positioned in the early offense and what the defense gives.
The Spurs are setup in a 4 out 1 in alignment:
The players are asked to fill positions on the floor based on whether they are a big or perimeter player:
- Two interchangeable bigs: Post (usually the first big down the floor who fills the post) and Trailer (who spots up at the top of the three point arc).
- Three interchangeable perimeter players: a strong-side wing, a weak-side wing (who fill the strong-side and weak-side corners) and a ball handler that fills the wing.
- Depending on the versatility of a player, they can even be asked to fill all five positions
The offense isn't right or left "handed," players can fill the positions on both sides of the floor. In the above picture, the positions are setup on the right side of the floor. In the next picture, the players are on the left.
The sequence of actions the Spurs go through are keyed by the actions of the ball handler:
- Strong: Where the ball handler swings the ball to the trailer and stays on the strong side of the floor
- Weak: Where the ball handler passes ahead to the strong-side wing, then cuts across to the weak side of the floor
- Loop: Where the ball handler dribbles towards the strong-side wing, pushing the strong-side wing to loop up top
Players are taught reads and progressions and asked to take what the defense gives. Various counters and automatics are also taught to keep defenses honest. If a play breaks down, the players can use basic motion actions (dribble hand offs, cut backdoor when denied) to generate a look. But most deadly of all, the Spurs can settle into a nightmare spread pick and roll attack. Because Popovich prepares his players to freely run the offense, players naturally learn about each other and develop a feel for their own strengths and weaknesses. Practice, preparation and coaching of fundamentals combined with the Spurs patient and selfless culture ensure the execution of a versatile, freelancing attack.