The San Antonio Spurs Franchise In a Box

My favorite contemporary writer, the incomparable Bill James, has used the “In a Box” concept in several of his books. Basically what James does is choose a topic (e.g., a baseball manager) and then makes an idiosyncratic list of the topic’s defining features. I think the format works well for a blog post, so today I would like to put the San Antonio Spurs franchise “In a Box”.


* Only includes NBA seasons.

37 (1976-77 to 2012-13)

San Antonio joined the NBA along with the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, and New York Nets when the ABA and NBA merged in 1976.

Won-Lost Record
1,822-1164 (.610)

That translates to a won-lost record of about 50-32 over an 82-game season.

Homecourt Advantage
+.253 (.737 home, .484 away)

The franchise’s best record at home came in 2004-05, when the Spurs went 38-3 on their own floor.

Playoff Appearances
33 (89.2 percent)

The Spurs have only missed the playoffs four times: 1983-84, 1986-87, 1988-89, and 1996-97.

4 (1998-99, 2002-03, 2004-05, and 2006-07)

San Antonio is the only former ABA franchise that has won an NBA championship.

Most Wins
63, 2005-06

The Spurs have won 60 or more games four times, and they have won 50 or more games for an NBA-record fourteen straight seasons.

Most Losses
62, 1996-97

San Antonio has had two seasons with 60 or more losses, and each time the Spurs ended up with the first overall pick in the draft. Who did they get with those picks? David Robinson and Tim Duncan.

Best Season, Team

The Spurs finished second in the Southwest Division, nine games behind the 67-15 Dallas Mavericks. However, San Antonio had the best adjusted margin of victory in the NBA (+8.35) and swept LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to win their fourth NBA championship in nine years.

Worst Season, Team

Just one year after winning 59 games, the Spurs stumbled to a franchise-worst 20-62 record, with David Robinson missing all but six games of the season due to back and foot injuries. Their reward for such a miserable season? The top overall pick in the 1997 draft, which turned out to be Tim Duncan.

Highest Scoring Average, Team
120.3, 1983-84

San Antonio had seven players average in double figures, led by George Gervin with 25.9 points per game. Unfortunately, the Spurs could not stop their opponents from scoring, as they gave up 120.5 points per game. San Antonio finished with a 37-45 record, missing the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s NBA history.

Lowest Scoring Average, Team
90.5, 1996-97

The 37-year-old Dominique Wilkins — playing for his fourth franchise in four years and returning to the NBA after a one-year stint in Greece — led the Spurs with an average of 18.2 points per game.

Highest Scoring Average, Player
33.1, George Gervin (1979-80)

This was the third straight NBA scoring title for Gervin. After finishing third in the 1980-81 season, he would win his fourth and final scoring title in the 1981-82 season.

Most Win Shares, Season
20.0, David Robinson (1993-94)

Robinson has eight of the top 11 single season win share totals in franchise history, with the other three belonging to Tim Duncan.

Most Win Shares, Career
184.2, Tim Duncan (1997-98 to 2012-13)

Between them, Tim Duncan and David Robinson have the 17 highest single season win share totals in Spurs history.

All-Spurs Team

PG Tony Parker
SG George Gervin
SF Sean Elliott
PF Tim Duncan
C David Robinson

A few notes:

  • Tony Parker is the clear choice at point guard, and even though Manu Ginobili is a wonderful player, George Gervin gets the nod at the other guard slot.
  • The small forward position came down to Sean Elliott and Bruce Bowen. Bowen was the superior defender, but in the end I didn’t feel that was enough to overcome Elliott’s big advantage on the offensive end of the floor.
  • Although Duncan has been a center for at least half of his career, both he and Robinson have to be on this team. Plus, Duncan played power forward alongside Robinson at the start of his career.

Best Season, Player
David Robinson, 1993-94

Like per game statistics? Robinson averaged 29.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 3.3 blocks, and 1.7 steals per game.

Prefer advanced statistics? Robinson had 20.0 win shares and averaged .296 win shares per 48 minutes, both league-leading figures that are also franchise single season records.

Worst Season, Player
Vernon Maxwell, 1996-97

Mad Max shot just .375 from the floor, the worst field goal percentage in the NBA among qualified players, not to mention the lowest figure in franchise history.

Maxwell’s poor shooting does not look any better when his three-point shooting is taken into account, as he shot just .309 from downtown, the second-worst mark in the league among qualified players and the fifth-worst percentage in Spurs history.

Finally, Maxwell’s .471 true shooting percentage was the worst in the NBA — as well as the worst in franchise history — among players who qualified for the field goal percentage title.

Best Player
Tim Duncan (1997-98 to present)

Although David Robinson had a higher peak, Tim Duncan’s sustained excellence over a longer period of time makes this an easy choice.

Duncan was named to both the All-NBA and All-Defensive teams the first 13 years of his career and, after failing to make either team following the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, received both honors again in 2012-13.

No player in NBA history has more All-Defensive selections than Duncan, and only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kobe Bryant have more All-NBA selections.

Best Coach
Gregg Popovich (1996-97 to present)

Popovich’s coaching career got off to an inauspicious start, as the Spurs went just 17-47 after he took over for Bob Hill during the 1996-97 season. Since then, however, the Spurs have won at least 50 games every year except the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, when San Antonio won its first NBA title.

All-Star Game Selections

Tim Duncan leads the way with 14 selections, followed by David Robinson with 10 and George Gervin with 9.

Hall of Famers

The Hall of Famers who have played for the Spurs are George Gervin, Artis Gilmore, David Robinson, Dennis Rodman, Moses Malone, and Dominique Wilkins.

2 thoughts on “The San Antonio Spurs Franchise In a Box

  1. Everything was great… but I feel that you didn’t take the time to find a better Small Forward for the all-time Spurs… and I feel that title would go to Mr. Larry Kenon (tied for all-time Steals in a game record, and arguably better than George Gervin on a few of those high-octane Spurs teams).

    1. Noah, that’s a fair point. I think I still would go with Elliott, but I should have at least mentioned Kenon.

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