San Antonio Spurs 2018-19 Player Previews: Davis Bertans will take on a larger role
By Albert Pérez Oyola
After much uncertainty early last year, forward Davis Bertans will see an increased workload and higher expectations for the San Antonio Spurs during the 2018-19 campaign.
At the beginning of the 2017-18 NBA season, a level of uncertainty mounted regarding Davis Bertans’ role with the San Antonio Spurs, as he hadn’t been an integral part of the rotation in the early going.
He played just four minutes on opening night, going 0-for-1 from the field and did not see any playing time for the next three games. He played 15 minutes against the Orlando Magic and struggled to shoot the ball going 2-for-7. He then played three minutes in Indiana, seven minutes in Boston, and three minutes against the Warriors.
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The Spurs found themselves in a peculiar situation with Bertans as they simply did not know what to do with him up to that point in the season. They decided to send him to the G-League along with Derrick White.
Davis had seen this movie before, players get sent to Austin from San Antonio with certain frequency, sometimes just for a game or two, and other times for lengthier periods. We can’t tell for sure what could have been going through his mind, or even for how long the team had initially meant to send him there, but one thing became clear – he proved he didn’t belong.
Bertans went berserk against the Texas Legends, dropping 27 points against them going 9-for-16 from the field, and 6-for-11 beyond the three-point line in 31 minutes of play. The Spurs recalled him the next day, and he never went back.
A couple months later, Bertans had a career game against the Sacramento Kings. He scored a career-high 28 points, on 11-for-15 shooting from the field, and 6-for-9 on threes, with three assists and two blocks. He finished the season averaging 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 14 minutes per game.
The Latvian forward signed a two-year deal worth $14.5 million during the offseason, which made him the 6th highest-paid player on the team behind DeRozan, Aldridge, Gasol, Gay, and Mills. It’s evident the Spurs want him in the rotation and perhaps are looking into expanding his role.
Spurs restricted free agent Davis Bertans has agreed to a two-year, $14.5M deal to re-sign with San Antonio, agent Arturs Kalnitis told Yahoo.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 10, 2018
Happy to say that I’m staying in San Antonio for at least 2 more years. Thanks to @spurs for putting the trust in me and I can promise that I will pour my heart and soul to help this team… https://t.co/Y6PRa6Rx4m
— Davis Bertans (@DBertans_42) July 11, 2018
The center and power forward starting roles belong to Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge. However, the first ones to see action from those positions in their relief should be center Jakob Poeltl and Bertans. Davis provides premium spacing and three-point shooting, especially with the team’s main scoring options tending to do most damage from inside-the-arc.
Bertans is a scorer. Yes, we know he shoots threes (career 38% three-point percentage) – that’s his thing, but he does so in many different ways. He hits them catch-and-shoot style, he scores them coming off-screens in motion, he connects them off-the-dribble, and he splashes them from beyond 30-feet.
.@DBertans_42 knocked down SIX triples tonight. Watch 'em all: pic.twitter.com/AKIoexJWyY
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) January 14, 2018
He can penetrate the paint and has the ability to finish nicely around the rim. Bertans can also stop his dribble on a dime and pull-up for a midrange or long-distance shot. He thrives in lineups where teammates demand much attention around the painted area, and he opens up the game for Murray and Aldridge to go to work. The inclusion of DeMar DeRozan adds to the need of having Davis on the floor, as he’s a threat from everywhere and should make life easier for all three.
A lineup including Aldridge, Bertans, DeRozan, and Murray provides a diverse offensive attack. With the abundance of big-men, Bertans may even see minutes at the small-forward position given his build, although the Spurs may prefer to use him in smaller lineups.
Spurs' Net Ratings (net points per 100 possessions) with the following three-man combinations on the floor…
Dejounte Murray/LaMarcus Aldridge/Pau Gasol: -0.5 (397 MIN)Murray/Aldridge/Davis Bertans: +19 (173 MIN)Murray/Gasol/Bertans: +10.8 (131 MIN)
— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) September 19, 2018
His clear weakness is his defense. He’s just not strong enough to withstand the opponent’s bigs, and not fast enough laterally to stop wing players during switches. He’s also not much of a rebounder for his size (or otherwise), collecting only 1.7 rebounds for his career.
Coach Pop will work his magic in order to mitigate his defensive deficiencies, but Bertans will need to continue improving and gaining much-needed strength for his position. So far in his career, Bertans’ playing time had been constantly in question – that’s not the case this year. He’ll see consistent minutes from the git-go, and should face no threat of being sent to the G-League.
He has virtually a perpetual green-light from Coach Popovich to shoot the rock from near half-court if he so desires, and don’t think for a second that he will offer any hesitation.