After a solid first season with the San Antonio Spurs, Marco Belinelli has proven to be a valuable piece to his new club.
Belinelli averaged 11.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG and 2.2 APG on 49 percent shooting from the field and an absurd 43 percent mark from outside last season. His minutes were cut in the postseason after he struggled to have the same impact, only averaging 5.4 PPG while still shooting well from the field. Manu Ginobili took a lion’s share of Belinelli’s minutes in the key stretches of important playoff games due to his strong play, especially on defense.
Belinelli might be one of the best free agent pickups in Spurs history. Michael Finley and Brent Barry come to mind, but in terms of the first season Belinelli had with the club, he might in fact be the best. He fit in seamlessly with their intricate offense, which allowed him to get wide open looks as well as being able to cleverly find his teammates for uncontested shots.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound shooting guard from Italy will have a bit more pressure on him coming into this season. Being that it was his first year with the franchise and it has been noted in years past how detailed and difficult their offensive playbook is, Belinelli definitely exceeded expectations last season. But Ginobili is not getting any younger, or healthier. Ginobili should be available to start the year, but his nagging injury issues will only get worse considering how recklessly he plays the game. This means more burn for Belinelli and more responsibility to be a the phenomenal sixth man off the bench again this season.
Belinelli greatly improved on defense during his time with the Chicago Bulls in 2012-13. Head coach Tom Thibodeau whipped him into shape on this end, and Belinelli saw his game go to the next level. He uses his body exceptionally on offense, angling his body to a leaning stance most times so that his shot is nearly impossible to block. Being that he is so brilliant on the offensive end, he can continue to work on his defensive game so that he can continue to earn more minutes during the season.
Personally, I believe Belinelli will have another strong year for the club. I do not think he will average the same numbers, however, as you can expect a slight decrease given just how deep the bench of the Spurs is. Throw in the team probably wanting to give rookie Kyle Anderson minutes at the two and three and Belinelli might not play as many minutes (25.2 MPG) as he did last year.
He is still a huge player for the team because of his outside shooting and the way he spaces the floor. At 28 years old, he is right in the prime years of his career. It is up to him to develop his defensive game even more in order to become a Ginobili-esque player for the Spurs off the bench given how careful the team is with him during the regular season.
I see Belinelli as a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, but he is on the same team as Ginobili who is up for that award every year. When the Spurs make the playoffs next year, Belinelli needs to play much better. He was not as bad as many people made him out to be, although he did get lost sometimes on basic defensive rotations. He needs to be a big player in the playoffs next year if the Spurs hope to repeat.
Personally, after the year I just saw him have, I expect another good season from him. It will be interesting to see how he handles his second year with the Spurs and if he can begin to show that he can become the future Ginobili for this team.