Defense is key to Bryn Forbes future with San Antonio Spurs

As he approaches unrestricted free agency, Bryn Forbes and the San Antonio Spurs could lock into a long term deal in the coming months

The whole 2019-20 season was full of ups and down’s for the San Antonio Spurs. They started the year by getting their franchise point guard Dejounte Murray back, but not too long after that they went on the longest losing streak of Gregg Popovich’s coaching career. Perhaps no player embodied the frustrating swings in consistency as much as Bryn Forbes.

Pending a likely season cancellation, Forbes has just turned in his fourth season with the San Antonio Spurs. At this point, it’s fair to say that we know who he is as a player. Barring a Pascal Siakam like explosive improvement, he is who he is. The question facing the Spurs is what that’s worth.

San Antonio doesn’t have a lot of “heat check” players. DeMar DeRozan can get there, Patty Mills has been known to go on runs of his own, but the player who most embodies the heat check idea is probably Forbes.

When he gets hot he’s scorching. He was completely in the zone against the Phoenix Suns earlier this season when he shot an outstanding 8 for 11 from behind the arc, including 7 made 3-pointer’s in the first half. Off-balance, contested, it didn’t matter, Sparty was hitting from deep.

The problem isn’t with his ability to score, that’s never been the issue. It’s what happens when he’s not going on scoring runs that makes you wonder if the Spurs can ever be more than a fringe playoff team with him as their starting shooting guard.

Bryn’s defensive limitations aren’t new news to anyone who has watched the Spurs play at any point over the past four years. He’s an undersized two-guard, doesn’t possess overly exceptional athleticism, and frequently looks out of place on defense. It’s not a trackable stat but he may have led the league in being shoved by teammates to get back into position on defense.

Outside of the basic eye test, the numbers back up what we’ve all been seeing over the years. The Spurs struggled on defense as a team this year but their performance really took a hit when Forbes was on the court. They allowed nearly seven more points per 100 possessions when Forbes was playing.

Looking to the future, Bryn’s limitations on the defensive floor are going to continue to be a point of frustration for Spurs fans. It seemed to be a touchier subject this year than it had been in years past. The lockdown potential that some of the younger Spurs have shown could have played into that.  Seeing Forbes get beat on defense is going to be even more frustrating when guys like Lonnie Walker and Derrick White are sitting on the bench watching it happen.

Less than exceptional defense hasn’t prevented shooters from signing lucrative long term deals. We recently saw Seth Curry come to a 4-year $32 million dollar agreement with the Dallas Mavericks and he’s a sieve on defense as well. To his credit, Curry is a better shooter and playmaker than Forbes is. But a deal similar to Curry’s isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Forbes.

Forbes is certainly going to want more than his current rate of $3 million a year, but could he command as much as Curry? Given the salary cap hit that is going to come as a result of the disruptions caused by coronavirus it’s unlikely that the Spurs, or any other team, would go that high.

Something in the range of $4 to $5 million would be more reasonable. Bringing Forbes back on a 3-year, $15 million dollar deal wouldn’t be the worst outcome for San Antonio. On a team light on 3-point threats, he’s a near necessary offensive weapon.

Length and compensation notwithstanding, the Spurs coaching staff should have a very frank discussion with Forbes about his future on the team before they sign him to any sort of long term extension. On a team budding with potentially dynamic perimeter defenders, it’s inexcusable that he would still be starting on a nightly basis.

There is a future in San Antonio for Bryn Forbes. It looks like a seventh man role off the bench as a sparkplug scorer. It’s a role that he would excel in and would also allow the Spurs to give more minutes to their more promising young players. We will have to wait until later this summer to see if the two parties can come to such an agreement.