On a season preview show with NBA Analysis Network’s Evan Dyal, for OTG Basketball’s Player Watch podcast, I proclaimed myself concerned about the San Antonio Spurs’ Bryn Forbes.
He was going to play behind DeMar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli, battling for garbage time minutes at the point and shooting guard positions. As one of my favorite players – because of his hard work, perfect jump shot and a don’t-say-I’m-too-small-to-guard-anyone attitude – I was concerned about his ability to stay engaged, and ultimately his long-term development prospects.
But days before the San Antonio Spurs’ season opened against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Murray went down indefinitely and White was announced out for 6-8 weeks. With plenty of firepower in the starting lineup, with two reigning All-NBA players in DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, it made sense to keep Mills as an off-the-bench microwave and put Forbes into the starting five. At least he knew the system, having already played two years with the team, and no one would expect much from him anyway.
Well, he showed them.
Against the Timberwolves, Forbes had a modest 11 points, three rebounds and two assists, but in 30 minutes of action he was a pest defensively, stealing the ball twice and getting in five good fouls. He was also aggressive, despite his shot being off. Forbes took 10 shots, including five from beyond the arc, and made game-saving plays down the stretch to help the Spurs to a four-point victory.
San Antonio’s second game wasn’t as successful. A locked-in Trail Blazers led the way in Portland, but the former Michigan State guard – affectionately known as ‘Sparty’ by the San Antonio Spurs’ play-by-play announcer Bill Land – scored 17 with five three-pointers.
In a huge overtime win for the Silver & Black against the Lakers in Los Angeles, he hit a huge three to get San Antonio back into the game during the extra time just as it looked like LeBron James was pulling his team to victory. Forbes finished with 16, three and one, but didn’t come out of the game during the final quarter and the bonus period. He played decent defense against the Lakers’ guards and is building a big case to head coach Gregg Popovich that will likely see him get plenty of playing time for the rest of the season.
Defense was a bit of a concern coming into the season, understandably. He might be the smallest 6’3 player in the league and doesn’t really have the strength to stop anyone in the low post like some other guards manage to summon on the block. However, he has taken to picking up players full court and it is paying dividends.
Bryn Forbes has been making an effort to pick up full court, a strategy from the Patty Mills school of defending for undersized guards and not a bad one. If he can turn the opponent PG a couple times, they get into their offense at 16-17 sec vs 20-21, every little bit helps. pic.twitter.com/aj8k1AVyQA
— Sarah (@WildHorses65) October 23, 2018
But offensively is where Forbes’ game has really stepped up. Part of this is simply down to minutes. Last season, commentators felt he might have peaked in his role at 19.0 minutes per game, nearly all of them in the shooting guard spot, simply shooting wide-open threes when they came his way. But averaging 31 minutes so far this year has been an easy adjustment.
If you balance the offensive production per 36 minutes, Forbes’ assist numbers stay largely the same, despite playing at point guard this year. Part of this is simply down to the offensive system Popovich puts together, in which everybody eats, but the team also acquired DeMar DeRozan, who, in four games in to his Spurs career, has already recorded a career-high in assists.
Instead, look at Forbes’ scoring numbers per-36, you can see his real growth going from 11.0 and 13.0 points in his rookie and sophomore seasons, respectively, and leaping up to 17.0 points so far this year. He is also doing it with a career-high efficiency from three at 48.0% from behind the arc, and with balanced shooting numbers around the floor.
After a career-high game last season, Popovich joked that far from Forbes being like former Spur Gary Neal, that he is in fact more like Stephen Curry. While that growth is a bit far-fetched, Forbes is out to prove the doubters wrong this year for the San Antonio Spurs.