One of the main issues with the current rotation used by the San Antonio Spurs is the fact that there are three one-dimensional shooters getting heavy minutes in Bryn Forbes, Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli. Giving all three of them minutes is unwise given this team’s shortcomings.
One-trick pony sharpshooters still have a place in today’s NBA. Seth Curry is undersized and lacks the athleticism to be an elite defender, yet still plays a role for the Dallas Mavericks. Former Spurs sniper Davis Bertans is currently thriving coming off the bench firing threes for the Washington Wizards — and he’s never been mistaken for a defensive dynamo.
Forbes, Mills and Belinelli individually are capable of filling a high volume three-point shooting role. Ideally, one or two of these players can succeed in a bench role. The Spurs’ conundrum is that none of the three should be in the starting lineup. Furthermore, the team doesn’t have the defense to support all three players being in the rotation, even if they are coming off the bench.
Bryn Forbes Has Limited Upside
A glaring trend regarding Forbes is that the Spurs organization has constantly asked him to do too much. Forbes filled in admirably at times last year at point guard with Dejounte Murray out for the season with a torn ACL.
This season, the Spurs have trotted out seven different starting lineups. Forbes has been the starting shooting guard in each of the 7.
This quote from head coach Gregg Popovich suggests that Forbes is likely to sign a new contract and return next season. If this is the case, Forbes must improve his three-point shooting. After hitting 42.6% of his three-pointers last season, he has slumped to 36.5% this season.
At 26 years old, however, youth is on Forbes’ side and him returning next year in a more limited bench role does make some sense.
The Aussie Can’t Miss
This season, Patty Mills is playing very good basketball. Mills is shooting a team- and career-high 42.9% from three. As a defender, he’s regarded as a step above Forbes and Belinelli. While he is shorter than both guards, Mills moves his feet well and he’s usually energetic on the defensive end.
With the kind of year Mills is having, his trade market has likely expanded. His four-year, $50 million contract seemed steep when he originally signed it. But with two years and roughly $26 million remaining, Mills’ contract looks a lot more tradeable.
While there have been rumors of the Spurs being open to trades, Mills is arguably the Spurs’ last connection to the corporate knowledge from the championship days and he’s a major part of the culture the team has long cherished. Between that and having a career year at 31 years old, it is hard to imagine Mills actually being traded in the near future.
No More Excuses for Marco Belinelli
Marco Belinelli has increasingly become the most difficult of these three (Forbes, Mills and Belinelli) to defend. While all three players are sub par defensively, Belinelli is not only likely the worst defender of the three, he has struggled mightily on offense at times this season.
This presents three options: Trade Belinelli, cut him or let him sit on the bench. The Spurs faced a somewhat similar situation last season with Pau Gasol. No team was willing to take back Gasol’s salary via trade. Gasol, like Belinelli, was a veteran who understandably didn’t want to end his career sitting on the bench. So the Spurs cut their losses with Gasol and let him walk. The writing may be on the wall for the Spurs to do something similar with Belinelli.
Decisions Moving Forward
Of the three Spurs’ guards discussed, Forbes is likely the toughest contract to move in a one-for-one swap due to his small salary. Additionally, being the youngest of the three, re-signing Forbes may actually make the most sense.
Mills is having one of the best years of his career in a Spurs uniform. It is still possible he is packaged in a blockbuster deal with DeMar DeRozan or LaMarcus Aldridge. However, due to the intangibles he brings to the table, Mills will likely remain a Spur for the foreseeable future.
By this logic, Belinelli is clearly the odd man out. If he is willing to take a backseat and have his role reduced, the Spurs can keep him on the roster this season and move on from him in free agency. Unless Belinelli increases his trade value, this may be the best option for San Antonio.