San Antonio Spurs: Marco Belinelli is the Perfect Role Player
Why Marco Belinelli Has Been a Perfect Signing for the Spurs
Apr 14, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Marco Belinelli (3) drives the ball to the basket during the first quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
With the NBA playoffs right around the corner, now is a better time than ever to look at one player who has vastly contributed to the success of the San Antonio Spurs this season and hopefully will continue to thrive throughout the playoffs: Marco Belinelli.
When Belinelli signed with the Spurs in the offseason, I was naturally ecstatic.
Belinelli, who was considered a journeyman before settling down with the Spurs, had a pretty unassuming career up until this season.
After failing to meet the high expectations that were placed on him by Golden State Warriors fans after his summer league outburst as a rookie, Belinelli had short stints for the Toronto Raptors, New Orleans Pelicans, and Chicago Bulls.
It was during the Bulls playoff series with the Miami Heat last season where I finally witnessed the Italian gunner, who, at that time, reminded me of the original Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther. On a Bulls team that was completely overmatched and devoid of offensive firepower due to Derrick Rose’s absence, Belinelli was one of the Bulls lone “go-to” offensive options alongside Nate Robinson.
His playoff performance certainly earned him a chance at good money in the offseason, but Belinelli, instead, opted to sign with a Spurs team that offered him less money than other clubs. The fact that Belinelli took less money to be on a championship caliber team, and the fact that he knew he would be assigned as a bench player, were the first signs to me that Belinelli was going to be right at home in San Antonio.
Belinelli also filled a huge hole that was left by the departure of Gary Neal.
Although Neal was a solid player for the Spurs, who had his fair share of bright moments, Belinelli fit in with the Spurs mold much more than Neal ever did, and ever would.
Neal was sporadic shooter who was more of a combo guard than a true point guard or shooting guard, so you never could really trust him running the second team offense.
With Belinelli, the Spurs added the services of a player who understood his role as a pure shooting guard, and he completely bought into Popovich’s system.
Will Marco Belinelli shine in the playoffs?
As a result, Belinelli will finish the regular season as one of the top ten three point shooters in the league at 43.4%, which is even ahead of teammates Patty Mills and Danny Green, who also round out the top ten (eighth and 10th, respectively).
Although Belinelli is never going to be mistaken for a defensive stalwart, he has shown that he can hold his own offensively when his number is called (Golden State, anybody?). He even won the three-point contest (much to the chagrin of Reggie Miller) when other better-known players were heavily favored.
Essentially, Belinelli’s signing coupled with Patty Mills’ emergence as the Spurs back-up point guard has more than made up for Gary Neal’s departure.
Mar 31, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; San Antonio Spurs guardTony Parker
(9) celebrates with forwardTim Duncan
(21) and guard Marco Belinelli (3) after their against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Spurs won 103-77. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
Belinelli has spearheaded the Spurs bench, AKA the Foreign Legion, a group of international players (Mills, Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw) that is content with wreaking havoc on opposing defenses. In fact, the Foreign Legion leads the league in bench scoring, assists, and defensive rebounds in a large part due to Belinelli’s emerging role as a catalyst for the machine-like Spurs offense.
In less than a full season with the Spurs, Belinelli has already shown complete chemistry with a Spurs team that has seemingly been together forever. Some of the most spectacular Spurs plays this season have been between Ginobili and Belinelli, who look like they have been playing together their entire careers.
Lastly, Belinelli has a very unassuming personality and simply looks the part of a Spurs player.
.@marcobelinelli‘s team-first attitude has made him a key component of the @spurs roster http://t.co/9IHqabWKBL pic.twitter.com/yWHsO2n55H
— Excel Sports (@excelsm) April 14, 2014
If you were just watching the Spurs and Belinelli play for the first time, you would probably think that Belinelli has been on the Spurs for years and was one of their core players.
Belinelli perfectly fits in with the basketball culture that San Antonio advocates, and it is for all the previous reasons that Belinelli rightfully deserves my man crush as the Spurs best offseason acquirement in years.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that he has bigger and better things planned for this year’s playoffs.