The San Antonio Spurs' decision to sign former Spur Bryn Forbes left many fans confused and upset. The Forbes signing followed up what had been an eventful and successful second day of free agency for the Spurs. That day, San Antonio agreed to sign and trade DeMar DeRozan to Chicago for a haul that included a future 1st round pick, two 2nd round picks, Thaddeus Young, and Al Farouq-Aminu. Later the same day, the Spurs signed Jock Landale, a 25-year-old Australian center who can space the floor, rebound, and block shots.
Both moves proved to be smart decisions by Spurs General Manager Brian Wright, who in my opinion, hasn't done a good job thus far as GM. Unfortunately, Wright and the Spurs followed up those moves by inexplicably bringing back Bryn Forbes. Forbes previously spent fours seasons with the team, even starting at shooting guard during his final two seasons due to his 3-point shooting ability.
In the last two seasons, San Antonio's defense took a significant step back, even ranking as one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA in the 19-20 season with Bryn being the main culprit. While he clearly tried on the defensive end, teams relentlessly attacked him whenever he was on the floor, knowing that he could do little to stop his defensive assignment. As a result, Bryn was one of the worst defensive players in the league during that span, according to various advanced metrics.
After signing with Milwaukee last offseason, Forbes would go on to have a fantastic offensive year, including hitting an amazing 45.2% of his threes. That said, despite playing with the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton, all of whom are above average defenders, Forbes still ranked as one of the worst defenders in the NBA. Meanwhile, San Antonio's defense jumped up from 25th to 17th without Bryn weighing it down.
Are the San Antonio Spurs planning a new role for Forbes?
Bringing Bryn back, even in a bench role, makes little sense. After all, San Antonio already knows his strengths and weaknesses and previously made the decision not to re-sign him last offseason. Of course, the Spurs then chose to sign him this offseason despite having the exact same flaws.
The Spurs previously did the same thing with Marco Belinelli, who they opted not to re-sign. Years later, Wright also decided to bring Marco back as if he expected his game to change. It didn't, and Wright (as well as Spurs fans) shouldn't expect Forbes to play any differently either.
In theory, Bryn would be an ideal replacement for Patty Mills, who signed with Brooklyn, and appears likely to assume his role. However, I believe that Bryn is a clear downgrade. While Forbes will definitely replace his shooting, Patty has far more experience as a ball-handler and is also a better play-maker. That said, it's possible that San Antonio will use Forbes differently than Mills next season, tailoring the role more to his specific strengths.
For instance, Mills averaged 24.8 minutes per game and often closed both halves of games while Forbes' role could be closer to 15 minutes per game, and playing exclusively behind Dejounte Murray. Furthermore, limiting his minutes would limit the chances for defenses to attack him but would still allow the Spurs to utilize his shooting by having him play more off-ball than Mills did.
It would also keep him from taking minutes from younger players like Lonnie Walker, though he’ll take minutes from guard Tre Jones. Jones, who is entering his second season, has the potential to be a capable point guard who can both create for others and defend, two things that Bryn can’t do.
That said, Tre may not be ready just yet, though the Spurs could’ve chosen another free agent point guard, one who has more playmaking ability and isn’t such a liability on defense. After all, with DeRozan now gone, Murray and Derrick White will be relied upon to be the Spurs' primary shot creators for the first time in their careers. Therefore, I believe that San Antonio would've been better served to sign another play-maker instead of Forbes in case Murray and White struggle or White has another injury-plagued season.
Ultimately, I feel that the decision to sign Forbes was a mistake. While he does provide the Spurs with a knockdown shooter, they signed Doug McDermott to fill that exact role, albeit at power forward. Additionally, his disastrous defense could limit him to a small bench role that could have been filled by a player who helps address a potential lack of ball-handling and play-making.
Going forward, San Antonio should look elsewhere instead of bringing back former players that they let leave for a reason. Bringing back Bryn Forbes is the wrong call.
*Note: This article is part of a debate series. You can read part two arguing in favor of the Bryn Forbes signing here.