Spurs will miss Marco Belinelli more than Aron Baynes and Cory Joseph


Aron Baynes, Marco Belinelli and Cory Joseph all departed from the San Antonio Spurs, but the team will miss one player more than the others.

While each contributed in a necessary role, Belinelli’s skill set is something the franchise wasn’t quite able to replace. Baynes and Joseph are notable losses, but San Antonio’s biggest weakness during the 2015-16 season appears to be three-point shooting.

Belinelli—now a member of the Sacramento Kings—signed with the Spurs back in the summer of 2013, and the Italian was a critical part of the championship team. He netted a career-best 43.0 percent of his triples during that regular season before connecting on 42.1 percent from long distance.

Although the shooting guard—who technically played small forward in San Antonio—encountered some struggles and managed a 37.4 three-point percentage in 2014-15, Belinelli nearly sealed the first-round playoffs series. He racked up 23 points on 7-of-11 from beyond the arc in Game 6.

Were it not for Belinelli in that contest, the Spurs wouldn’t have been close to the Clippers. Most importantly, he provided the long-range shooting spark neither Danny Green nor Boris Diaw offered in the series.

Now, Belinelli wasn’t without problems.

Unlike Joseph, Belinelli was a mediocre defender at best. According to Basketball-Reference, opponents posted a 107.5 offensive rating with Belinelli on the floor, while Joseph had a 100.5 mark.

Cory Joseph said, “I’m not afraid to guard anybody. I have confidence in my defense.” #spurs #gospursgo

— Jeff Garcia PS (@JeffGarciaPS) April 9, 2015

He also performed admirably well when Tony Parker was sidelined. Joseph averaged 12.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists in December last season, proving he was a legitimate rotational piece when called upon. Later in the season, the Texas product stepped in for a struggling Patty Mills, which pushed the Aussie to earn his minutes back.

Joseph certainly earned a raise, and the Toronto Raptors offered a four-year, $30 million deal to the career reserve. The Spurs didn’t have the cap space to offer Joseph a contract remotely similar.

Nevertheless, San Antonio brought in Ray McCallum, who has the tools to develop into a Joseph-like player. Though McCallum isn’t at Joseph’s level, consider how it took four years for Joseph to progress into the asset he was last season for the Spurs.

Besides, Joseph wasn’t a regular in the second unit. He’s a respectable player but more easily replaceable. Belinelli was an every-night piece—as was Baynes.

After spending two seasons in a limited role, Baynes jumped Jeff Ayres on the depth chart and logged 16.0 minutes per outing, adding 4.5 rebounds. Baynes registered a 116 offensive rating and 103 defensive clip.

Baynes emerged as a fan favorite, but he also stuck out to the Detroit Pistons, too. The Eastern Conference franchise extended a $20 million deal over three years, which Baynes accepted.

San Antonio will miss the Baynes Brickhouse down low, since he used a 6’10”, 260-pound frame to stifle opponents. But the Spurs couldn’t afford to keep the 28-year-old at that salary, and they ended up lucking out with power forward David West, who signed a veteran’s minimum contract.

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It’s not a perfect marriage for the Spurs, since Baynes is a better fit for the center position. According to Nylon Calculus, he held opponents to a 48.3 field-goal percentage at the rim, but West managed a 52.8 percent mark. Additionally, Baynes atoned for some of Diaw’s shortcomings, since the stretch 4 allowed 56.8 percent. West probably won’t be able to do the same.

However, West is a clear upgrade on offense. The former Indiana Pacers star is an elite mid-range shooter, a smart pick-and-roll contributor and decent rebounder. What San Antonio lacks on defense end without Baynes, West should make up for on the offensive end.

Despite those shooting skills, though West cannot replace Belinelli’s spacing and three-point shooting. West has only attempted 192 triples during his 12-year career.

Unless Jimmer Fredette earns a spot on the roster and cracks the rotation, the Spurs didn’t add a player who can immediately offer what Belinelli contributed. Joseph and Baynes were notable pieces to the rotation, but San Antonio currently is down a critical three-point resource.

Next: Power Ranking the Spurs Roster: No. 1, Kawhi Leonard