The San Antonio Spurs in 2005-06

Over the past nine seasons the San Antonio Spurs have won between 65% and 77% of its games each season. Each season the team has legitimately contended for the title and three times it was ultimately successful.

The talent driving this engine is Tim Duncan, the player the Spurs took with the first pick in the NBA draft in 1997. In nine NBA seasons Duncan has produced 174 wins and posted a Wins Produced per 48 minutes [WP48] of 0.330. An average NBA player will post a WP48 of 0.100. If all you had was a collection of average players and Duncan, your team would win approximately 54 games. This is not quite as good as a team of average players and Michael Jordan in his prime, which as detailed in The Wages of Wins, would win 61 games. Still, just having Duncan on your team gives you quite a lift. And unlike the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Spurs have consistently taken advantage of having a major star on its roster.

In 2005-06 edition of the Spurs was once again led by Duncan. This edition actually set the franchise record for victories, winning 63 games. Such a victory total suggests that there was more to the Spurs than Duncan.

And the more to this team played in the backcourt. Among shooting guards who played at least 1,000 minutes, only Dwyane Wade (0.301) posted a higher WP48 than Manu Ginobili (0.275). Joining Ginobili in the Spurs backcourt was Brent Barry and Tony Parker. Barry offered a 0.204 WP48 while Parker had a mark of 0.175. These three players combined to produced 25.6 wins. When you couple the production of these three guards with the output of Tim Duncan, we see that four players produced 72% of the wins for the Spurs last season.

All four of these players will be back in 2006-07. Where the Spurs are making changes is at the center position. Both Nazr Mohammed and Rasho Nesterovic are playing elsewhere in 2006-07. Although Mohammed was above average last year, the combination of Mohammed and Nesterovic had a WP48 of only 0.084. In other words, the Spurs success was not tied to the productivity they got from their centers.

This next season the team is turning to three players: Jackie Butler, Francisco Elson, and Fabricio Oberto. None of these players managed to be above average last season. In fact, none matched the 0.084 the Spurs received from Mohammed-Nesterovic. So it is possible the Spurs will have a bit of drop off at this position.

Despite upheaval at the center position, we can expect the Spurs – if the team remains healthy – to once again contend for the title. And if they do, it will be the 10th consecutive season this team has been among the NBA elite. When you consider the size of the San Antonio market, such a record is but one more piece of evidence that market size does not tell us much about a team’s prospects for short-run and long-run success in North American professional team sports.

– DJ

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

Wins Produced and Win Score are Discussed in the Following Posts

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

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