Breaking down Marco Belinelli's shooting

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

For a player long known for being a competent but inefficient scorer, is there any bigger surprise this year than San Antonio's Marco Belinelli leading the league in accuracy from behind the arc?

Fifty-three per cent.

That's the level of Marco Belinelli's unconscious, prolific shooting from behind the three-point line.

In his first year in the Alamo City, the Italian journeyman has made the most of his 22 minutes per game. By the numbers, Belinelli has been unmatched for his perimeter marksmanship, providing the Spurs with a much-needed backcourt scoring punch in a reserve role.

The seventh-year international guard is hoisting 2.9 long balls per contest, and is converting a jaw-dropping 61.3% of his 3FGA on San Antonio's home floor. What's more, Belinelli's play alongside Manu Ginobili (as a crafty bench tandem) has been insane. The pair have generated an OffRtg of 118.5, the second best of Spurs' duos that have featured in at least 15 games.* This has been achieved on the heels of a 65.0% True Shooting percentage, the top mark out of all of the team's two-man units. Individually, the data to support Belinelli's across-the-board offensive improvement is just as impressive.

Recently, NBA.com's John Schuhmann detailed the differential in the 27 year-old's performance between 2012-13 and the current campaign, including some handy notes on how a change in system and transitioning to the Spurs' offensive scheme have benefited Belinelli. Perhaps most importantly, Schuhmann outlined his 17.6% boost in effective field goal percentage (eFG%) -- a league-leading status for players with min. 500 FGA's -- from 46.0% to 63.6%. This is a tribute to the Italian's efforts, but to be sure it's not merely circumstantial, let's consider some of the available SportsVU tracking data.

To date, Belinelli is netting 61.4% of his shots in catch-and-shoot situations, placing him at #1 in the NBA of players who've recorded 20 GP and average at least 3.5 catch-and-shoot FGA per outing. Moreover, his eFG% in the same conditions is currently 80.7%, creating a cavernous six per cent gap between him and the second-most efficient "no dribble" shooter in the league. It's not difficult to decipher the sharpshooter's juicy recipe; 48.1% of all of his points have come from beyond the arc, a whopping 94.6% of which were directly assisted. Conscientious floor spacing and the patented pick-and-roll game have helped to open looks for the veteran guard, who is excelling in his move from the league's 23rd ranked offense of last season to these Spurs**.

With Ginobili on the court, Belinelli has laced 19 of his 28 launches from 20-24 feet. But this number plummets to 5 of 22 without Manu. There's an interesting contrast to be made between this fruitful pairing, and how Belinelli has shot when playing with Tony Parker. Parker and Belinelli have shared 213 total minutes of court time together. In this window of time, the Frenchman has set up 10 Belinelli field goals,  as many as Boris Diaw, and fewer than Patty Mills and Ginobili.

The imbalance of the Parker-Belinelli twosome relative the rest of the team's perimeter options is likely an outcome of Parker's hefty usage rate, and the reality that whenever the two do hit the hardwood together, Belinelli is relegated to the Spurs' 3rd or 4th offensive option (at best). Nevertheless, San Antonio would be wise to continue to source bench offense and production from the bountiful well that is the Manu & Marco combination.

Broadly speaking, Belinelli has carved out a role as a high efficiency/low usage reserve scorer. He is willingly capitalizing on the Spurs' carefully managed offense, and is doing so while averaging just 33.0 touches per game. With 100% of his corner threes and 93% of his above the break trebles directly assisted, and a career-low usage rate of 16.9%, it's clear that his place on the team is defined. Furthermore, these conditions have allowed him to generate a PER 16.18 -- also on pace for a career-best mark, and the first time he has been above league-average.

*To put this into perspective, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have amassed an Offensive Rating of 106.2 in 18 games together this season. Additionally, their TS% is 60.2%. Both measures are vastly inferior to the Belinelli-Ginobili combination.

**courtesy of basketball-reference.com

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