Most people think that the “Moneyball” theory cannot work in the NBA due to high star retention, individual talent, and sometimes the lack of a team concept. However, what professional sport proves time and time again is that sometimes the reasons for the success of teams are overlooked. “Moneyball Theory” is a term conceptualized by Oakland A general manager Billy Beane, who uses factual research and sabrometry to build a competitive team.
Now in the NBA, building a squad with players with high field goal percentages can work to put points on the scoreboard, but players can lack skill on the defensive side. Conversely, build a team made up of players who can excel at defense, but lack the offensive firepower. In other words, there has to be a good mix of offense, defense and teamwork. These statements shouldn’t be anything new to anyone who wants to build a competitive team, but the one word I forgot to mention is “consistency”. Moneyball theory focuses on objective results, but it also preaches consistency, and there is no other NBA team that has been more consistent than the San Antonio Spurs over the past thirteen years. The Spurs have accumulated fifty consecutive seasons and 4 NBA titles, but what is the formula for their success?
After 1996-97, the team enjoyed regular season success, but decided to change the team’s training philosophy from Bob Hill to Greg Popovich. Popovich had been at the front office as general manager and saw that while the team was competitive, it lacked intensity and tenacity. Throughout the league, Bob Hill’s coaching style was known to be rigid and detail-oriented, similar to a dictatorship, but Popovich believed the team approach should be more democratic and hold players accountable. of their actions. In a cooperative environment, players must learn a system that maximizes the skills of each player and not just the team’s win-lose toll. In the 1997 draft, the Spurs drafted Tim Duncan, an All-American center from Wake Forest in Wake Forest to team up with David Robinson. Duncan’s writing was very important as it launched the team’s approach for years to come. Has anyone ever noticed that the San Antonio Spurs always seem to have a collection of the same type of players in their system? Penetrating point guards who can take down open fire, shooting guards able to create their own shots, versatile little attackers who can defend guards but also have a high career three point percentage, flexible attackers able to defend at the post but also stretch the defense on the perimeter and finally a center that can defend and score at the post. Additionally, duplicate three to five similar players coming off the bench. This formula was not created by accident; in fact, this strategy is why Spurs are so consistent. From Avery Johnson to Tony Parker, Mario Elie to Manu Ginobli, Jerome Kersey to Robert Horry, David Robinson to Tim Duncan and other players, Spurs have always focused on building to last. For any NBA team, it would be easy to acquire the best free agent in the business during the offseason, but it is also evident in the league that every time star players join a new team, the philosophy will most likely change. Coach Popovich thinks “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” which is a simple expression used for a complex system. Also, if you think Greg Popovich became an overnight success who got lucky with his own strategy, you would be inclined to know that he graduated from the Air Force Academy with a degree in Soviet Studies. and almost pursued a career in counterintelligence.
As well as analyzing the overall make-up of the Spurs squad, you should also look at stats like the player’s average age and player development, two concepts related to Moneyball theory. Historically, every NBA championship team since 1999 has had an average player age of under 29, with the exception of 1999 and 2007 NBA champions, Spurs. To clarify, the 1999 Spurs played a 50-game lockout season, but they were seen as a very experienced team that ultimately finished 37-13 and lost just two games in the playoffs. The 2007 Spurs were also experienced but battle tested and then swept the final, four games to zero. The average age of players on both teams was 30, but why is age so important? Most NBA analysts believe that age and experience are important factors in a championship team, but players can also break down physically during a playoff series. Additionally, younger, more athletic teams can sometimes overcome inexperience with high intensity. Therefore, a mix of actors in a proven system can create positive results. The point is, Spurs have been the only team since 1999 to prove that you can win an average 30-year-old not through experience but through their system. Plus, whenever the average age of Spurs players seems to start increasing, they always rearrange themselves with similar but younger players. This strategy seemed inevitable after last season when Spurs were outscored by the # 8 seed but young Memphis Grizzlies last season. In terms of player development, Spurs have developed Duncan, Ginobli and Parker from their rookie season to the superstars they are today. In addition, the Spurs were one of the first teams in the NBA to purchase a development league team for the purpose of managing and developing players. Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics used a similar approach when developing minor league players in MLB’s best farming system. Subsequently, players would contribute to the team and then leave via free agency. Years later, the strategy began to be copied by the rest of the league; including the 2004 World Series champion, the Boston Red Sox.
So, I know you are telling yourself Spurs are boring or too basic and playing in a small market. However, if you’re a fan of a great market team, think about the last time your team had 50 straight winning seasons without the help of a coveted free agent or blockbuster or the fact that your team hasn’t won four NBA titles with an opportunity to win a fifth title in under fifteen? If you are a passionate and down to earth NBA fan, you should appreciate the San Antonio Spurs because while the team isn’t the most popular franchise, the team is still the most respected.