Before the Coronavirus pandemic forced the league to suspend operations prematurely, the Spurs pulled off an impressive win over the Mavericks behind solid team defense and an offensive explosion from their second unit. It was a refreshing sight considering their embarrassing loss to the last-place Cavaliers two nights prior, though it only highlighted their proclivity for erratic performances from game to game.
It’s comforting to sit back and imagine that victory might have spurred San Antonio into a furious playoff push over the final quarter of the campaign, but that fantasy faded ages ago. And you can thank a miserable 0-5 start to the ruthless Rodeo Road Trip for erasing any hope of keeping their 22-year-old postseason streak alive.
While the Spurs annual exodus from the AT&T Center is one of the chief culprits in their expeditious tumble down the Western Conference standings, questionable rotations put them behind the eight-ball all season. More specifically, it was the decision to give a rash of defensively challenged individuals extensive minutes that greatly hindered San Antonio’s success.
To be fair, this rendition of the Spurs wasn’t exactly constructed to be a premiere point stopper. A third of the roster can be categorized as minus defenders, and another third consists of first or second-year players still in the process of learning the ins and outs of their trade. And who could forget the unceremonious Marcus Morris and DeMarre Carroll debacles?
Regardless, starting Bryn Forbes while an all-defensive caliber guard like Derrick White played second fiddle is perhaps the greatest head-scratcher of the season. Not only did the undersized wing start 49 more games than White, but he also logged more minutes than anyone not named DeMar DeRozan or LaMarcus Aldridge. To make matters worse, he was arguably the worst perimeter defender in the conference.
Bryn Forbes ranked 616th in Defensive Points Saved and 612th in Player Impact Plus-Minus.— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) May 6, 2020
624 players suited up in the NBA this season and he was third in minutes for San Antonio.
Derrick White ranked 80th and 167th in those categories yet played 186 fewer minutes than Forbes.
As detrimental as Forbes was on the defensive end, some aspects of his play helped the Silver and Black. Outside of a slow start from beyond the arc, Bryn posted the 26th best three-point percentage (42.1%) from December 16th until the untimely stoppage of the regular season. Take away his 148 three-point baskets, and the Spurs suddenly fall 108 long-distance makes behind the last-place New York Knicks (631 3PM).
Bryn may be a one-dimensional defensive liability, but his sharpshooting talents and familiarity with the system make him a valuable commodity in San Antonio. Combine that with the fact they continue to lag behind the ever-growing long-range trend, and moving on from Forbes when his contract expires this summer becomes a bit more complicated. Factoring in the financial fallout from COVID-19 only further compounds an already convoluted situation.
So, what should the Spurs do when it comes time to sit at the negotiating table with their homegrown marksman? Do they pay market value for Forbes knowing a reduced role would better suit his flawed skillset? Or do they let him walk and search for a knockdown shooter elsewhere? First, we should take a look at what similar players are earning around the association.
How much will Bryn Forbes fetch in Free Agency?— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) May 16, 2020
Here are what similar players received over the past few years:
P. Mills: 4YR $48M
F. Korkmaz: 2YR $3.4M
D. Robinson: 3YR $3.1M
B. McLemore: 2YR $4.3M
S. Curry: 4YR $32M
L. Galloway: 3YR $21M
J. Harris: 2YR $16M
T. Snell: 4YR $46M
Forbes simply isn’t as good as Seth Curry, Joe Harris, or Langston Galloway, and he shouldn’t be compensated as their equal. He also fails to stand up to the efficiency of Duncan Robinson, Furkan Korkmaz, or Ben McLemore, but they make less money than he does on his current contract, and it’s highly unlikely he’ll take a pay cut in the heart of his prime.
Although coming to a reasonable number won’t be easy for either party, a contract in the scope of three years for $15M seems appropriate for this three-point specialist given his extensive defensive shortcomings. Should another franchise come calling with a more lucrative offer, San Antonio shouldn’t hesitate to back out of the discussions.
Losing Forbes would admittedly be a heavy blow to their spacing, but he isn’t irreplaceable. Justin Holiday, Tony Snell, and Wesley Matthews could be viable alternatives for a sensible price via free agency. And the draft is always home to a handful of hidden gems capable of sliding into a Bryn-esque role. Even the Spurs’ 2019 second-rounder Quinndary Weatherspoon showed the potential to stretch the floor in the G-League this season.
Whatever transpires during the 2020 offseason, whenever that may be, it’s bound to look foreign in comparison with we’ve grown used to. The Coronavirus has already changed the landscape of the NBA, even if we don’t yet know the lasting repercussions for the future of the league. For now, all we can do is wait and watch as events unfold.