An iffy second half of the season wavered the San Antonio Spurs’ usage and implementation of forward Davis Bertans, how will they adjust next year?
Shooting the lights out in the regular season wasn’t enough to solidify Davis Bertans within the San Antonio Spurs’ rotation in the first round against Denver. Though his third season in the silver and black proved the Latvian Laser to be a deadeye three-point specialist and dedicated defender, the 26-year-old has blatant deficiencies to attend to before earning back the trust of historic instructor, Gregg Popovich.
At first glance, Bertans was a reliable shooter with the statistics to back it up. Through 21.5 minutes per game across 76 appearances and 12 starts, the lanky forward shot 42.9 percent on 4.4 triples per contest. He also showcased an improved arsenal of offensive skills by driving to the basket with reckless abandon and moving the ball within sets to position his teammates for success.
The unfortunate truth about Bertans’ season is that his numbers before the All-Star break were much more encouraging than his numbers after getting snubbed from the three-point contest. Prior to the February break, Bertans was neck-and-neck with Portland guard Seth Curry for the highest percentage from deep in the NBA. He made 47.6 percent of his triples and 48.5 percent of his field goal attempts in those 53 games.
After the All-Star Break, Bertans’ numbers took a nosedive. He made only 37.8 percent of his shots and just 33.3 percent from deep while playing roughly the same number of minutes and taking one more shot nightly.
— Spurs Nation (@SpursNationCP) May 14, 2019
Bertans was one of the feel-good storylines of the season for San Antonio after a summer of turmoil and confusion that saw multiple franchise cornerstones leave and another star in the making, point guard Dejounte Murray, lost to a season to injury. Fans rallied around Bertans, hailing him as the best three-point marksman in the NBA through the early portion of the season.
It’s unclear as to what exactly caused Bertans’ shot to go awry. He didn’t seem to suffer any major injury and got open looks in his usual spots but couldn’t seem to get the ball in the hoop when his team needed him to.
For this reason, Popovich shortened his rotation and left Bertans out of the lineup in the first round against the Denver Nuggets. He averaged 15.8 minutes per game through the first five meetings of the series and sat in the final two games. In his limited playing time, Bertans shot an abysmal 33.3 percent on his field goal attempts and an uncharacteristic 27.3 percent on his triples.
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Watching his team’s downfall from the sidelines likely had a strong effect on Bertans – he’s a fierce competitor with a resounding desire to be special in this league. However, the 6-foot-10 power forward was physically outmatched and out-hustled by veteran big man Paul Millsap on the low block.
Moving forward, Pop and R.C. Buford need to take a serious look at his place within this franchise. With just one year left on his contract, Bertans could be an eligible trade chip this summer to improve the team’s lackluster defense or get off one of their unfavorable contracts.
In all likelihood, Bertans will be back in San Antonio for another exciting season of zipping around the arc and draining deep jumpers. Even if his numbers took a dip, shooters always regain their touch eventually.
A summer of weight training and shootarounds would do wonders for Bertans in preparation for his fourth season. He’ll enter a contract year in 2020 and will be playing for some cash and an extended role as he enters his physical prime.
Barring a draft night trade or an unanticipated signing that shifts around their rotation, the Spurs should be glad to welcome Davis back to the lineup next season.