In a season where the San Antonio Spurs are on pace to have their worst record in over 20 years, many have often pointed the finger at Marco Belinelli. Not only has Belinelli produced some shockingly bad metrics offensively and defensively, he has inexplicably stayed in Gregg Popovich’s rotation nearly all season. While others may be to blame for those minutes being given in the first place, the Italian swingman has been well on his way to wearing out his welcome in San Antonio.
Yet, a funny thing has happened along the way. All of a sudden Belinelli went from one of the worst rotation players on the team to one of the best scoring assets. Slowly but surely he improved month-by-month as the season has gone along and has given the Spurs solid production in the month of December.
From Cross-Eyed to Dead-Eye
It is no secret that Marco Belinelli had an awful start to the season. In October, he managed to shoot a ghastly 9.1% from three-point range and just 30.0% from the floor overall. For a player who was expected to spread the floor, he instead needed to be seeing as little of it as possible.
November wasn’t much better. Belinelli did improve his three-point shooting, but his woeful shooting from inside the three-point line led to an even worse field goal percentage of 28.9%. As the youth movement was being put on hold, it was becoming harder and harder to defend his 16-plus minutes per game.
As the festive season rolled around, Belinelli quietly began to prove his naysayers wrong. For a guy who shot below 10% from downtown a couple months ago, he was draining threes left, right and center. When taking a closer look at the difference between his shooting in December and the two months prior, the results are eye-opening.
Marco Belinelli’s October and November Shooting Stats
Marco Belinelli’s December Shooting Stats
As impressive as Belinelli’s outside shooting has been, he really turned it around when it came to attacking the rim. When shooting within ten feet of the basket, Belinelli went from a dismal 29.4% to a fantastic 83.3%. The fact that Belinelli had no problem doing damage even when he was run off the three-point line was a headache for opposing teams — as opposed to Belinelli being a headache for the Spurs in the months prior.
Belinelli even provided some of this month’s most jaw dropping moments for the Spurs.
Despite a tough loss to the Clippers, Belinelli showed that his December performances were not a fluke as he shot 4-for-6 from the floor and hit all five of his free throws for 17 points against the West’s elite.
So, Marco Belinelli has Obviously Improved … Now What?
Marco Belinelli deserves a lot of credit for bouncing back. For the month of December, he is averaging 7.0 points per game on 52.2% shooting from the field, along with 46.2% shooting from three-point range. For a bench player, it’s difficult to not be happy with that production. However, despite some slight improvement defensively, Belinelli is still a liability on that end of the floor. Therefore, it makes it very hard to justify him getting meaningful minutes moving forward.
Belinelli only played three minutes in his most recent outing as the Spurs blew out the Pistons. While his improvement is to be commended, Pop made the right move. Belinelli is a seasoned veteran, but for the Spurs to explore more of their upside, they’ll need to play the trio of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV more often, as all three provide much more than Belinelli does defensively.
In the meantime, Belinelli providing some much needed outside shooting in any capacity is always welcome. Here’s to hoping it continues well into the new year and beyond.