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Losing (however temporarily) the contributions and spacing that Lonnie Walker has provided this season has been yet another thorn in the side of a Spurs team still searching for a secondary offensive identity in the wake of LaMarcus Aldridge’s demotion and eventual exit.
The good news is that the Spurs will be facing a team that’s been even more youthfully inconsistent than they have. Like the Spurs, the Kings are sporting an (even more) negative net rating, and have gone 12-12 on the road. Additionally they have the NBA’s worst defensive rating and are typically middling from long distance.
The bad news is that the Kings shot lights out in their last matchup with San Antonio, dropping 18(!) threes on the Spurs to the tune of 56% from the field, and that they’re 7th in scoring, 9th in offensive rating, carrying the league’s 7th best true shooting percentage and a five game winning streak (7-3 in their last ten).
A good portion of Aldridge’s career will be framed by the three-point shot and his reluctant adoption of it. Its explosion coincided with his arrival in 2015 and conspired to render his back-to-the-basket style of play nearly obsolete. Suddenly any appreciation of the footwork, balance and strength of the post-up game gave way to the simple calculation that 3 is greater than 2.
Aldridge, and the Spurs by proxy, represented a resistance to analytics, one 19-foot turnaround at a time. Old habits, especially those that propped up a borderline-Hall of Fame career, die hard.
(Eventually both parties gave in, at least a little. Aldridge began taking a few steps back on his jumpshots and shifted up to full-time center, as the power forward position evolved beneath him. If things break right for him with the contending Nets, it’ll be because he made the decision to do so in these twilight years.)