Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report published a list of the greatest shooting big men in NBA history, and former San Antonio fan-favorite Matt Bonner took home second place honors right behind Dirk Nowitzki. Though the ten-year Spur lacked the prolific volume of some of today’s oversized snipers, his unorthodox playstyle helped usher in an era of pace-and-space basketball.
Much like Steve Novak, Matt Bonner’s game was largely predicated on the ability to shoot. He may not have been quite as efficient as Novak, but he was still scoring significantly more points on his attempts than the average shooter.
And he leveraged his efficiency in a bigger role than Novak, finishing his career with 7,699 more minutes and 586 more three-point attempts.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich trusted Bonner, particularly in the late 2000s and early 2010s. From the 2008-09 season to 2011-12, Bonner played 21.1 minutes per game, made 1.5 threes and shot 42.7 percent from three.
In the same stretch, San Antonio was plus-9.3 points per 100 possessions with Bonner on the floor and plus-3.2 with him off. When he shared the floor with both Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, the team was plus-13.4points per 100 possessions.
Supplementing Duncan’s post play and Ginobili’s slashing and playmaking with elite floor spacing like that provided by Bonner gave the Spurs an offensive dynamism that wasn’t quite there otherwise.
When those three were on the floor, San Antonio scored 119.1 points per 100 possessions, compared to 112.5 when Duncan and Ginobili played without Bonner.
While the Red Mamba contributed to three championships during his decade-long stint suiting up for the Silver and Black, his career 41.5% three-point percentage is an impressive accomplishment on its own. Not only is that the 18th highest accuracy of all-time, but it’s the second-best mark by any post player in league history. A number only topped by fellow former Spur and third-place finisher Steve Novak (43.0%).
With names like Ryan Anderson, Davis Bertans, and Karl-Anthony Towns scattered across this compilation of gargantuan sharpshooters, it may come as a surprise to the retired marksman rank near the top. After all, as gifted a shooter as he was, the Fox Sports Southwest analyst never averaged more than 8.2 points per game. Even Bonner seemed shocked by the generous ranking.
Almost choked on my Wheaties this morning reading this https://t.co/HRQy6TGAUs— Matt Bonner (@mattbonner_15) July 6, 2020
Matt Bonner was never the most graceful guy on the hardwood, but he knocked down the long-ball better than 99.99% of all players to ever grace a basketball court, and he gave the average joe hope of reaching their NBA dreams. There aren’t many Red Rocket highlight reels out there, so please let me direct you to a homemade hoops mixtape.