How the Philadelphia 76ers stack up against the Southwest Division

Ben Simmons | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Ben Simmons | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio Spurs Projected Starting Five:

Finally, we have reached our first team in the Southwest that didn’t undergo significant roster changes this summer.  The Spurs will bring back every contributor sans Davis Bertans, and they will add Dejounte Murray, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

The Spurs’ defense finished 19th last year in defensive rating.  The last time the Spurs finished any lower the 11th was in the 1996-97 season, the year before they drafted Tim Duncan, per Basketball Reference.  The Murray injury certainly played a role, as he showed great ability as a guard on the defensive end the season before, but the Spurs roster does not contain the same top to bottom defensive ability as it has in the past.

The Spurs did do a good job forcing opponents into inefficient shots, as they finished in the 89th percentile in terms of shots allowed at the rim, per Cleaning the Glass.  The issue was that opponents shot a high percentage on these looks, with both variance and poor contests on the Spurs part playing a role in that.

Lineups with two traditional big men in Aldridge and Poeltl performed better defensively for the Spurs, and we may see a lot of that in the two games against the Sixers to match for size.  Ben Simmons will need to attack against this Spurs team, as they don’t have a player on the roster with the requisite combination of size and speed to stay with him. Embiid should also have an advantage, as he does against most centers, whether Poeltl or Aldridge is matched up on him.  Quality looks should be generated if the Sixers are able to move the ball and find the mismatches.

light. More. How Sixers stack up against the Atlantic Division

Against most teams, the goal defensively is to force them away from open threes and shots at the rim. This Spurs team is a different beast however, as they lived in the mid-range last year, and produced a shot chart that would give Daryl Morey an aneurysm.  Per Cleaning the Glass, the Spurs finished in the second percentile in terms of shots attempted at the rim, in the eighth percentile for three-point attempts, and in the 98th percentile for mid-range shot attempts. Despite this traditionally inefficient shot selection, the Spurs clawed their way to sixth in offensive rating on the back incredibly efficient shooting, per

The Sixers should defend the Spurs by getting into the shirts of their mid-range aficionados, such as DeRozan and Aldridge.  The Sixers have the players to do this, as they could throw Horford or Embiid at Aldridge, and either Simmons or Richardson at DeRozan. The Spurs will move the ball well, as they always have done under Coach Pop, and it will be on the Sixers to stay in tune and focused to not allow wide open jumpers.

Last season, the Sixers split the series with the Spurs, getting a close win in Philly, and getting blown out in San Antonio.  The matchups with these two teams are always fun from a coaching standpoint, with Brett Brown throwing out everything as he tries to beat his former mentor.

I think a series split is a safe bet here as well.  The Sixers have the talent advantage, but the Spurs efficient jump shooting could present problems to a team that will likely be focused on walling off the rim next season.  I also expect the Spurs to improve defensively next season, thanks to Murray’s return and a little better luck in terms of opponents’ outside shooting.