The San Antonio Spurs need Marco Belinelli’s shooting slump to end

Marco Belinelli of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Marco Belinelli of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The San Antonio Spurs offense has sputtered at times during the season. They need Marco Belinelli to break out of his shooting slump more than ever.

At 5-5 through the first ten games, the San Antonio Spurs offense has sputtered and been lackadaisical at times. Going away from their norm of efficiency and effective three-point shooting, they’ve struggled to score the ball in key moments. One of their few long ball snipers has struggled profusely. San Antonio desperately needs Marco Belinelli‘s shooting slump to end as soon as possible.

Belinelli, whether you love him or hate him, carries value for this Spurs team. His three-point shooting, a veteran presence both on and off the court, and familiarity with this Spurs system are much needed for this group.

Through ten games, Marco has struggled immensely on both ends of the court. His shooting has been poor, his defense has been worse. His level of play as a whole is to the point where Gregg Popovich seemingly gets more and more agitated with every question that involves the 13 year NBA veteran.

Fortunately for not only Beli but this entire Spurs squad, it’s not all doom and gloom. With over 70 regular-season games left in the season, Marco can catch fire at a moment’s notice. Not only that, there’s over a fifty-nine percent frequency rate where Marco’s closest defender on his shot attempts is between 4-6+ feet according to NBA.com.

The issue of missing shots is a very big deal, but it is an even bigger deal considering nearly four of Beli’s six-shot attempts are coming off what the NBA considers to be open looks. To be blunt, there’s nowhere to go but up for Marco.

Marco has a relatively one-dimensional role on this squad, it is to take and make three-point shots. If he’s not doing that, his impact on the floor is negligible. If he’s not making shots, should he even be playing?

The Spurs desperately need Beli’s scoring input to come consistently while maintaining the efficiency that keeps them in every ball-game. In this pace & space era of the NBA, the three-point shot has never been more important.

Every NBA team has seemed to conform their offenses to shoot behind the arc. Every team, besides the San Antonio Spurs.

Having key role players like Bryn Forbes, Patty Mills, and Marco Belinelli as your modern-day catch and shooters is vital to the current NBA offense. Their ability to take and make three-point shots for a team like San Antonio that keeps that firm grasp on what is considered to be an “outdated offense” greatly impacts game flow and the ability to stay in games despite the bombardment of mid-range jump shots.

San Antonio shoots mid-range jump shots at a rate that would be common in the ’90s and 2000s. To compete on a nightly basis their offense must be at one of the most accurate in all of basketball. With teams bombing away from three, and the Spurs taking by far the least amount of three-point shots, they consistently deal with having little to no room for error.

Marco is shooting an abysmal 26.3 percent from the field which is easily the worst out of the ten-man rotation the Spurs have played thus far. From three-point land, the career 37.5 percent shooter is shooting at a career-worst pace, of 23 percent.

Marco’s shot selection hasn’t been an issue. Shooting what is his bread and butter, he’s not shying away from the catch and shoot J’s, as over thirty-four percent of his shots come off that action.

The issue is simple, he isn’t making them. Struggling to average one made three-point shot a game, he has hindered this Spurs team a great deal.

Last season, the Spurs shot the best percentage from beyond the arc and were the second-best team in terms of field-goal percentage. Marco tied for the lead in three-point attempts per game, was in the top-five in field goals per game on the squad, shooting five three-pointers a contest. Beli shot over 37 percent from three and hitting nearly 40 percent when shooting off the catch.

What makes it even more significant is that the Spurs have made the 28th most three-pointers this season, while shooting the 19th best percentage from that range. In terms of field-goal percentage, the Spurs struggle to be in the top half of the league.

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While this isn’t all Marco’s fault by any means, he’s easily shooting the worst percentage out of the normal ten-man rotation that’s started the year. He’s on a pace to make 64 three-pointers this year, a significant drop-off from last year’s production. Making what was his second most amount of three’s in a season (147) last year, an 83 shot dropoff is a formula destined for losses.

The Spurs rely on Marco’s spacing off the bench and in the fourth quarter playing with superb facilitators in DeMar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray, and Derrick White. All of these players will feed him right in his sweet spots. It all comes down to making the shots. With Marco’s inability to put out a consistent scoring output, the bench unit struggles to put up points when DeMar-LaMarcus-Dejounte-Bryn steps off the floor.

Marco’s bench unit is shooting 15th best in field-goal percentage, while not shooting in the top 10 in three-point percentage either. Considering Marco is shooting the percentages, his gradual improvement this season will seriously help the bench’s production.

He’s already at both a physical and defensive disadvantage when playing with the second unit. His insistence on hoisting a variety of off-balance fade away shoots makes his struggles all the more frustrating.

The Spurs need Marco Belinelli’s shots to fall soon. The spacing Marco provides when he’s hitting shots, his effectiveness and high IQ in transition is a plus for this offense. Marco, when hitting from three, adds a dimension to this offense that the Spurs desperately need right now. Pop clearly intends to keep playing him, it’s up to both Beli and the Spurs coaching staff to find a way to better maximize those minutes.

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Through weakside exchanges & P&R lifts, the variety of screens set to spring Marco open to get a shot off, the Spurs have the formula to break the slump apart. If the Spurs continue to feed Marco when the slump ends they’ll surely reap the rewards. It’s only a matter of time, but the Spurs need that time to be now.

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