With Tiago Splitter and Danny Green sidelined with injuries, the San Antonio Spurs have done some lineup juggling to compensate. Marco Belinelli, fluctuating between thriving and struggling, has found a home as a steadily producing role player.
After getting the starting job from Danny Green in mid-December, Belinelli struggled getting into rhythm. Through nine games, Belinelli put up only 11.5 points (though this is partially skewed due to a fiery 32 point outing against the Knicks), a rather mediocre stat line for a starting shooting guard in the Western Conference.
This output isn’t troubling by any means, especially considering a probable future Hall of Famer in Manu Ginobili is coming off the bench to replace him, but Belinelli’s skill set still seemed to be misused. The 6’5″ shooter has shown promise in the past, thriving in a Chicago offense while Derek Rose was out last season, scoring 13 points as a go-to option as a starter. Though he saw success as a starter in Chicago, I think the key to harnessing the full potential of Belinelli lies in the team’s ability to give him adequate opportunities.
Luckily enough, the Spurs have a pretty good coach that seems to have picked up on this as well. In the last 3 games with Belinelli’s and Ginobili’s roles switched, Marco has averaged 14.3 points.
The scoring numbers for Belinelli are virtually identical for him both starting and coming off the bench this season at 11.8 and 11.9 points respectively, but when he is matched up with players whose rolls are to spread the floor and share the ball, Belinelli continues to seem much more at home. His role is to be a scorer, a kick-out option from beyond the arc. With him being the fourth option behind Parker, Duncan, and Leonard in the starting role, there just isn’t much room for contribution.
With Splitter and Green set to come back in the next couple of weeks, it is quite uncertain to tell if this lineup change will last. More importantly, it seems to not really matter what the San Antonio does lineup-wise. They continue to sport the best record in the West as well as the longest win streak in the league at 6 games.
One key factor moving forward in the success of Marco Belinelli is the change in Ginobili’s role on the team.
Though he was once a go-to option with a quick first step, the light-footed Argentinian has evolved his game to contribute in different ways. Ginobili has kept his slashing-scorer mindset, but now that the defenders have been able to keep up with the patented Euro-step, Manu has become one of the best in the game at drive and kicks. Assuming that Ginobili will return to his 6th-man role once Green returns, being paired with Ginobili off the bench should open up Belinelli’s game even more.
Marco Belinelli has shown promise since even before his draft day back in 2007, but has been a disappoint to many people’s standards. You can chalk it up to misuse or just lack of confidence on his part, but under Popovich’s system of back screens and motion, expect Belinelli to thrive in San Antonio, even if it is off the bench.