SA Spurs Debate: Why Bryn Forbes can work this time around

San Antonio Spurs Bryn Forbes
San Antonio Spurs Bryn Forbes / Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Spurs fans… he’s baaack! Bryn Forbes has officially agreed to terms to return to the San Antonio Spurs once again. We aren’t quite sure of the money situation yet, but with the scant cap space left over, it’s safe to assume Forbes is back on a very cheap deal.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking. You’re harkening back to the last time Forbes was on the Spurs roster in the 2019-20 season. Yes, that season was an absolute disaster with Forbes playing the fourth-most minutes among rostered Spurs while cooperatively stunting the growth of Lonnie Walker alongside his minute-siphoning partner Marco Belinelli. He played zero defense, couldn’t handle the ball, had a pretty low IQ on both ends, took terrible shots with 19 seconds left on the shot clock, and all-in-all played terrible ball.

All of this is true, and yet I still believe he has the ability to return to the team and provide solid minutes in the right niche under this new-look Spurs team. The keywords here are “right” and “niche” because boy, oh, boy it will be incredibly easy to mess this up under poor roster management and rotations.

Forbes was clearly in the wrong role for his skill set back in 2019. He was a starter for almost every game up until the bubble, and he is clearly not built to be that type of player (Cue the “you’re not that guy, pal” meme here).

Sure, he provided spacing next to players like DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray, who were each attempting .5 3PA (25%)  and 1.7 3PA (36%) respectively. The only problem is what he lacked, and Forbes lacked quite a bit in almost every other aspect of starter-level play.

He was quite literally a non-factor on defense, never posting lower than a 110 DefRtg in his career thus far and only having his first-ever net positive season playing on a championship-winning Milwaukee team where even then he was only a +2.

Starting him next to DeRozan and sometimes Patty Mills meant you could basically be looking at a 2-vs-5 on defense at times. It was rough… but that doesn’t mean it can’t work out for him this go around, especially considering Mills and DeRozan are no longer with the team and can be replaced by defensive-minded wings in their stead. 

Looking at his stint on the Bucks, he actually posted a net positive season for the first time in his career while also still being able to attempt roughly 5 3-pointers a game on an incredible 45% shooting.

He averaged one fewer point per game while only starting 10 games the entirety of last season. Coach Bud, being blessed with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday to pick up defensive slack, found a way to effectively implement Forbes into a role that suits both him and the team, translating to efficient scoring and ultimately wins. 

Of course, there was a multitude of factors that led Forbes to land the perfect role for him playing next to arguably the best player in the league while being able to play effective basketball leading to a championship run. Forbes was surrounded by wonderful defenders during his tenure in Milwaukee which aided him in his own efficient play.  I’m not claiming that is really even in the realm of possibility. The Spurs are very clearly a rebuilding team, and I’m not even 100% sure Forbes will get much run at all, possibly being a stashed asset to flip at the deadline for more picks to a desperate playoff team.

What I am saying is Forbes, in a small role as a spot-up shooter to fill the gaps when necessary, or to deploy next to defensive-heavy lineups without much spacing, could work fairly, well all things considered. San Antonio has defensive stoppers on the team that could surround Forbes in a multitude of lineups that could clean up some of his own shortcomings on that end while helping effectively deploy him on the court to do what he does best: shoot the ball. 

Bryn just came off of his best season in the NBA numbers-wise and accolade-wise, and he honestly is a great culture guy. Shedding Mills, DeRozan, and Gay this offseason leaves a large gap in the culture Spurs alum like Forbes will do a great job at filling.

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Hopefully, he isn’t in San Antonio to run the offense alongside Murray once again but is instead there to foster the culture, help their young fellas grow their shooting games, and possibly contribute to a few wins himself in the process. 

*Note: This article is part of a debate series. You can read the argument against bringing back Bryn Forbes here.