After starting all but one game for the San Antonio Spurs last season, shooting guard Bryn Forbes will need to adjust to a new role for next season.
Shooting guard Bryn Forbes surprised many with his play last season. He wasn’t supposed to start out as the San Antonio Spurs’ point guard, but when injuries forced Forbes into the role, he took off. The 26-year-old took his increased minutes and responsibility in stride.
Scoring in double-digits in sixteen out of the team’s first nineteen games, Forbes was a valuable and consistent option on offense early on. His assist average doubled as he took on more playmaking responsibility than ever before. He looked comfortable; he knew he was ready for his moment.
His play didn’t go unnoticed by the Spurs. After a game in November, Gregg Popovich spoke to Spurs Zone’s Jeff Garcia about Forbes’ confidence.
Said Popovich, “I’m not sure how much more confident he can be. He knows he belongs.”
Forbes proved he belonged last year, but the Western Conference got a lot tougher this summer. The Spurs will be counting on Forbes to take another leap. They’ll need him to if they want to make it further in the playoffs than they did last year. Here are three things he can do to help San Antonio improve on last season’s first-round exit.
Next: Improved three-point shooting
Improved three-point shooting
Forbes was the Spurs’ second-best long-range shooter last season. San Antonio’s best deep threat, Davis Bertans, was traded to Washington this summer. This means that the Spurs will be even more dependent on Forbes’ shooting ability.
Forbes was phenomenal from deep last year. His 42.6 percent from three-point land was good enough to be tied for eighth in the league, along with Sacramento’s Buddy Hield. He will need to be even better this season.
Derrick White is sure to get better from deep. We’ve seen videos of DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray working on their long-range shooting all summer. Until we actually see those guys do it in-game, Forbes remains one of the Spurs very few consistent deep threats. Of the players returning from last year’s group, only Forbes and Rudy Gay shot over 40 percent from deep.
— NBA (@NBA) December 12, 2018
I believe Forbes can absolutely improve his overall three-point percentage. The key will be improving his percentage while simultaneously increasing volume. It’s a difficult task, but no one on the team should have more of a green-light to let it fly than Forbes.
We’ve seen the success that teams like Milwaukee and Houston have had when they give their shooters freedom to shoot whenever they feel comfortable. Admittedly, those styles of play are quite different than what San Antonio does. But the Spurs have nothing to lose and everything to gain by letting their best shooter have more freedom. What I’d like to see is more of Forbes pulling up in transition and shooting earlier in the shot clock.
When Forbes shot from deep early in the shot clock, with 22 to 18 seconds left, he was connecting on 47 percent of his attempts. With a group of guards who feel comfortable crashing the boards and transitioning to offense, we should the Spurs running more than ever. That will open up more transition and early shot clock looks for Forbes. Bryn is lights out from three in transition and that’s something that the Spurs should look for more of going forward.
Next: Being more aggressive on defense
Being more aggressive on defense
Fully healthy and with their free-agent additions, the Spurs should be a better defensive team this season. Getting Murray back is an instant help, Derrick White will improve, and DeMarre Carroll is a very strong defensive addition.
This year San Antonio will be able to have multiple plus defensive players on the court all the time. Knowing that his new teammates will be there for him should give Forbes the confidence to be more aggressive.
Forbes improved as a defender last year but that’s always going to be an area of weakness for him. He ended the season 189th in defensive win shares. If there is an area where he can have a defensive impact, its in creating more turnovers.
Forbes did average half a steal a game last year. He’s quick, and while he’s not the strongest defender, he’s smart and moves through traffic well. Altogether, I think Forbes has the skills to average at least a steal a game. And with players like Murray and Carroll watching his back he can afford to take the risks to make that happen.
With either White or Murray on the floor, Forbes will be able to stick with the opposing teams less dangerous guard. Being smart and picking and choosing the times he gambles for steals or jumps passing lanes will lead to more transition opportunities, something San Antonio desperately needs.
San Antonio was last in the league in both deflections, and in how frequently they got out in transition. Those are their lowest finishes in those two categories over the past three years. The Spurs have the personal to play faster this year. Encouraging Forbes to be more aggressive and take more risks can help San Antonio get more deflections and, as a result, more fast-break buckets.
Defense has always been a hallmark of Spurs basketball. Last season was the first time since 1997 that San Antonio has finished with a real defensive rating above 0. Perhaps a more aggressive Forbes can get the Spurs back on the right side of that rating and back to their old ways.
Next: Get in the Sixth Man of the Year Conversation
Get in the Sixth Man of the Year Conversation
We don’t yet know who the Spurs’ opening night starters will be but in all likelihood Forbes will not be one of them. Depending on how it all shakes out, one of Forbes, Poeltl, or Gay is likely to be the first one off the bench. Forbes can force the Spurs into bringing him first off the bench in a spark-plug offensive role and make his way into the Sixth Man of the Year conversation.
A Murray-White-DeRozan-Gay-Aldridge starting lineup puts all the Spurs best players on the floor together and is the most versatile. Between Jakob and Bryn, it should be Bryn who is tapped first to come into the game.
Fred VanVleet made his way into the discussion last year as Toronto’s sixth-man and his numbers weren’t that much better than Forbes’. VanVleet averaged 11 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 4.8 assists over the course of last year. Forbes averaged 11.8/2.9/2.1.
With similar stats, VanVleet did get more attention due to his team’s success and his higher assist numbers. If Forbes can raise his assists to where VanVleet’s where last season he should be in the discussion.
Forbes will have to fight to keep his minutes near where VanVleet was last year (27.5 mpg). With Murray’s return and White’s improvement, it will be a crowded backcourt. But he has proven that he’s the most consistent of the Spurs backup guards.
Popovich and the coaching staff should continue to trust Forbes as they have in the past and let him run the second unit. He’s more than proved that he’s up to the task of running the offense.
More from Air Alamo
- Spurs show remarkable poise against Bulls, unlike many fans
- Devin Vassell is the latest in the Spurs’ collection of silent assassins
- San Antonio Spurs: 5 Players to avoid in any LaMarcus Aldridge deal
- Is Gregg Popovich hiding Luka Samanic as a secret weapon?
- San Antonio Spurs News: More DeRozan trade talk from Chris Haynes
A second unit containing Lonnie Walker IV, Carroll, and either Poeltl or Gay, led by Forbes, would be one to be reckoned with. San Antonio doesn’t have the firepower in the starting lineup that teams like the Clippers or Lakers do. But if the Spurs can blow opponents second units off the court they will stay competitive.
Handing the reins of the offense to an offensive-minded player such as Forbes could help with that. As San Antonio’s sixth man, he can help lead a unit that finished the season 11th in points per game back to the top-four, where San Antonio has typically been in years past. If Forbes can do that he should absolutely be in the running for Sixth Man of the Year.
Bryn Forbes took a leap last year. He was thrown into a starting role at the last minute and ended up holding on to it the entire way. His consistency and three-point shooting were key to the Spurs success.
This season will be different, but the Spurs need for Forbes’ contributions will be the same. And just as he always has, I’m sure Forbes will rise to the occasion.