May 14, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Marco Belinelli (3) attempts to save a ball from going out of bounds against the Portland Trail Blazers in game five of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs: Getting To Know Marco Belinelli

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Kawhi Leonard is becoming a star. However, Leonard was one of the few true small forwards with the 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs.

By adding Kyle Anderson during this year’s NBA Draft, San Antonio finally has a serviceable backup at the 3 when Leonard’s resting.

Last season the Spurs stole minutes with Marco Belinelli, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green playing the small forward position despite all being natural shooting guards.

Belinelli was in his first year with San Antonio. Anderson’s addition helps the Spurs systematically keep Marco at the 2 offensively.

Then again in San Antonio’s free-flowing offense, it doesn’t really matter what position Belinelli plays. Like Green, Marco can make it rain from 3 and similar to Ginobili has an array of clever passing.

Let’s recap Belinelli’s first full season with the Spurs and begin to answer a couple of questions: What did Marco do well and what can he improve upon?

Jun 8, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) drives against San Antonio Spurs guard Marco Belinelli (3) in game two of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 8, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) drives against San Antonio Spurs guard Marco Belinelli (3) in game two of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Belinelli’s First Year In San Antonio A Success

During Marco’s seventh NBA regular season, Belinelli equaled the 80 games he played in 2010-11 with the New Orleans Hornets. Unlike the 69 starts Marco had with New Orleans, the Spurs chose to start him just 25 times.

Still, Belinelli’s year was a major success, ending with San Antonio grabbing a fifth championship ring by beating the Miami Heat in five games.

Individually, Marco was on par with his Hornets scoring days. Belinelli’s 11.4 points per game this past season was second only to his last year with New Orleans. Marco averaged 11.8 PPG that season after tallying 10.5 PPG his first year in the Big Easy.

Spurs fans hope Belinelli’s scoring continues to climb. Four key statistics that Marco excelled at during 2013-14 was shooting free throws (84.7 percent), shooting 3s (43 percent), racking up assists (2.2) and grabbing rebounds (2.8).

Belinelli Has Best Shooting Year Of His Career In 2013-14

On top of shooting career-highs in free throws and 3-pointers last season, Marco made a career-best 48.5 percent of his field goals. Belinelli averaged 8.7 attempts a game (had 10.4 during 2011-12), making 4.2.

In 25.2 minutes that’s pretty effective. Marco’s efficiency had him nearly scoring a point for every two minutes he was on the court.

Belinelli has evolved as a shooter and by far had his best shooting year in 2013-14. Unfortunately, Marco fell out of San Antonio’s rotation during the postseason.

Belinelli played every playoff game, but just logged 15.5 minutes per game. Consequently Marco was 1.9-of-4.3 from the floor per game. Still, 44.4 percent shooting was Belinelli’s postseason-high.

Marco averaged 5.4 PPG, 2.3 rebounds per game and 0.8 assists per game during the 2013-14 playoffs. Belinelli excelled more with the Chicago Bulls a year earlier during the postseason with 11.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG and 2.6 APG during 27.1 MPG.

Still, having Marco as a scoring threat is vital. The defense has to be cognizant of his presence and although Belinelli’s dimes didn’t indicate he passed much, Marco did have about half a turnover for every assist he registered during the postseason.

Jun 8, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Marco Belinelli (3) shoots a three point basket in the first half against the Miami Heat in game two of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Belinelli’s Role Could Be Bigger This Year

Marco’s lack of familiarity with the Spurs’ system certainly played a factor in reduced minutes during the playoffs. Hurting matters too was Leonard and Manu getting even more minutes.

Being in Chicago and San Antonio the past two seasons has certainly been beneficial to Belinelli’s attention-to-detail defensively. Marco will never be a top-notch on-ball defender, but the Spurs’ schemes make it so he does not have to be.

Belinelli needs to trust his teammates to help him out defensively and be a better help-defender too. If Marco improves those areas, San Antonio might have another special year.

Belinelli offensively can’t improve much on his deadly shooting, but he can be better and quicker with his decisions. For the most part, the Spurs frown upon over-dribbling and not keeping the ball moving side to side.

Marco should believe in his instincts more this upcoming season. If Belinelli does, there’s no reason his numbers won’t be better.

Ultimately team success shines in San Antonio. However, individual character is a key building block and Marco’s evolution as a player will aid the Spurs to their 16th 50-win year.

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Tags: Marco Belinelli San Antonio Spurs

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