Apparently, the San Antonio Spurs front office does not take off holidays. The Spurs continued to remain very active in the early stages of the NBA offseason today, agreeing to terms with free agent guard Marco Belinelli. Belinelli, who is Italian, will join the most international team in the NBA on a two-year deal worth $6 million. Belinelli most recently played for the Chicago Bulls, averaging 9.6 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game while shooting 39% from three-point territory.
Belinelli is a great fit for San Antonio. He is a deadly three-point shooter who will get tons of open looks in the Spurs system. He is a pretty good ball handler who has the ability to create for others. He will likely come off the bench to back up Tony Parker and Danny Green at both guard spots, providing the Spurs with additional playmaking and shooting. Belinelli’s playmaking ability will be of particular use to the Spurs, who sorely lacked another playmaker whenever Tony Parker would come out of games last season. Manu Ginobili used to be able to single-handedly create and facilitate for the Spurs’ second unit, but at his current age he can no longer consistently do this. However, Ginobili and Belinelli combined makes the Spurs’ second unit much more potent, in my opinion, and takes much of the pressure off Ginobili to do everything. Belinelli has at times struggled when teams have asked him to do too much, (be a first or second option, offensively) but on this loaded Spurs team he won’t be asked to. This signing, at a very reasonable price (Kyle Korver just got $24 million from the Atlanta Hawks), makes a lot of sense for the Spurs.
The signing of Belinelli likely means the end Gary Neal‘s tenure with San Antonio. Multiple sources have confirmed it, and while nothing is official, it only makes sense that the Spurs would now let Neal go. Neal and Belinelli are similar players, and Belinelli is, in most aspects, a slight upgrade over Neal. The Spurs already had a plethora of guards, and now with Belinelli they have no real use for Neal’s abilities. It will be sad if Neal does indeed go elsewhere, but the Spurs are now in a good position to move on without him.
It is as of now unclear how much more financial flexibility the Spurs have to make any more acquisitions this offseason. The Belinelli signing will likely put them right above the salary cap of $58.5 million, so they should have some of the mid-level exception still available to offer someone else. The Spurs’ biggest hole is at small forward, as Kawhi Leonard is the only true small forward on the roster. He’s great, but he can’t play 48 minutes a night. Look for the Spurs’ next move to address this issue.