San Antonio Spurs: Will three-point shooting improve?
By Dylan Carter
After shaking up the roster this offseason, the San Antonio Spurs are set to improve upon last season’s poor three-point shooting.
The deep ball has been an integral part of the Spurs’ game plan since Gregg Popovich took control of the team more than two decades ago. By spacing the floor with shooters, San Antonio has historically allowed their lead scorers to operate freely on offense. Players such as Matt Bonner, Robert Horry and Danny Green have built legacies off of three-point shooting under Spurs ball movement.
In a rocky 2017-2018 campaign, San Antonio ranked 27th in threes attempted per game with 24.1. This may have been enough deep shots during the prime of San Antonio’s Big Three era, but the league has changed. Spacing has become one of the most important tools for a team in the modern NBA. It’d be less detrimental if the team hit a high percentage of the shots they took, but the Spurs dropped to 26th in three-point percentage at 35.2 percent per game last season.
In light of this revelation, general manager R.C. Buford set out to add some shooters by signing forwards Dante Cunningham and Quincy Pondexter to fill backup forward minutes. In addition to the two towards, Buford brought back fan favorite Marco Belinelli who most recently set the league ablaze with his three-point gun slinging in Philadelphia.
Belinelli, a career 37.7 percent three-point shooter, will be crucial to the Spurs’ offense in the coming season. He’ll likely assume the sixth man role with Manu Ginobili retiring and will take a boatload of shots for Popovich. In retooling the team for this new transition, Belinelli is a great building block for what San Antonio hopes will be a dynamic two-way bench unit consisting of versatile players and floor spacers.
Spurs' current roster:
1 – Murray, Mills2 – Belinelli, Forbes, White, Walker IV (interesting to see who starts at the 2)3 – DeRozan, Pondexter4 – Gay, Bertans, Cunningham5 – Aldridge, Gasol, Poeltl pic.twitter.com/CDgENfagrC
— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) August 27, 2018
Re-signing hybrid forward Davis Bertans to a two-year $14.5 million deal made a lot of sense for the new-look Spurs. It’s no secret that newly acquired All Star DeMar DeRozan hasn’t quite found his three-point shot and that franchise centerpiece LaMarcus Aldridge can only do so much from behind the arc. The 25-year old is a great compliment to the new-look Spurs.
Bertans covers the bases of the team’s primary needs from this summer: three-point shooting at high volume, athleticism, defensive versatility and switchability. Bertans is one of the “Spursiest” players to come through the pipeline in quite some time, so retaining him seemed like the right idea.
The floor spacing ability of rookie shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV is yet to be determined, but all signs indicate that his jump shot is serviceable. Walker shot a decent 34.6 percent from behind the arc on 5.1 attempts per game at Miami and struggled in the G League, but he’s only just begun to adjust to the NBA game. It’s almost too early to tell.
Last but certainly not least is Summer League Phenom Derrick White who is expected to earn a role within the Spurs’ lineup. The sophomore combo guard has grown into a firecracker of an offensive player with a poised and stable three-point shot. White played in just 17 games in limited minutes over the course of his first year, but he connected on eight of his 13 attempts from outside. Between Utah and Las Vegas, White impressed with a refined offensive game complimented by a jump shot that enticed spectators of the breakout candidate.
After a significant downswing last season, San Antonio is poised to take a leap back into three-point relevance with their new roster.