Why Marco Belinelli Turned Out to Be Perfect Fit for San Antonio Spurs

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2013

USA Today

When NBA front offices make transactions, signing free agents and moving players via trade, team chemistry is not necessarily a focus.

The San Antonio Spurs' acquisition of sharpshooter Marco Belinelli was not headline news like Dwight Howard's decision to sign with the Houston Rockets. But as it turns out, Belinelli has been a perfect fit with the Spurs because of what he adds to the team.

Once considered one-dimensional, Belinelli has become a better all-around player under the tutelage of mastermind head coach Gregg Popovich. Plus, the seventh-year pro is not being called upon to help lead the scoring like he has been asked to do during his career.

Ultimately, Belinelli has seamlessly fit into the Spurs rotation and is helping San Antonio remain as an elite franchise in the Western Conference.


Shooting Has Improved Dramatically

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 17: Marco Belinelli #3 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots against the Atlanta Hawks on October 17, 2013 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this P
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

According to John Schuhmann on the NBA Hang Time Blog, Belinelli is the most improved shooter in the entire NBA.

Well, that'll do.

Last season, Belinelli had an effective field-goal percentage of 46 percent on 610 attempts. Currently, Belinelli boasts an eFG% of 63.6—a 17.6 percent increase.

Belinelli's most noticeable improvement is his three-point shooting, raising his percentage from just a 35.7 percent mark to a league-leading 56.6 clip.

The best single-season mark from deep in NBA history is 53.6 percent, accomplished by Kyle Korver in 2009-10. Now, let's not get carried away and hand Belinelli the record, but he has put together a rather impressive start.

As of Dec. 11, Belinelli is one of only three qualified players who have made at least 50 percent of their respective long-distance attempts. Though he does not shoot as often as the other twoKorver and Ryan Anderson of the New Orleans PelicansBelinelli is knocking down triples at an elite efficiency.

Overall, the Italian has made 52.9 percent of all attempts compared to just 39.5 last season.

And Belinelli's shooting improvement has much to do with his fellow teammates.


Perfect Complement in the Bench Rotation

Coming off the bench, Belinelli has typically found himself playing alongside the upstart Patty Mills and resurgent pair of Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw.

As seen in the lineup stats on 82games.com, the group consisting of the four aforementioned players plus Jeff Ayres is scoring 1.39 points per possession compared to allowing 1.11.

Ball movement is key to this unit making baskets, and Belinelli is taking advantage of San Antonio's pick-and-roll offense, occupying vacated positions and creating open shots. Last season, Belinelli was assisted on 645 of 829 (77.8 percent) of his made shots (h/t Basketball-Reference). 

Guess what? The Spurs have been pretty good at passing the ball lately.

Last year, San Antonio led the league in assists per game and is currently pacing the pack this season too.

As noted by Schuhmann, Ginobili has assisted Belinelli on 22 of 74 (29.7 percent) made shots, including this absolute dime from the Argentine. Additionally, Mills has accounted for 11 more (14.9 percent), so Belinelli has already meshed with his new backcourt teammates.

The Spurs second unit is working fantastically well together on both ends of the floor, and Belinelli is receiving his favorite shotopen spot-up jumpersbecause of it.


Belinelli Has Overcome Being a Defensive Liability

SAN ANTONIO, TX - November 6: Marcus Morris #15 of the Phoenix Suns drives to the basket against Marco Belinelli #3 of the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center on November 6, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images

Belinelli has never been accused of being an elite defender, and that won't start right now either.

Holding a career defensive rating of 110 (which is not good, by the way), Belinelli was a commodity only because of his offensive prowess. Otherwise, he could definitely be replaced.

This season, however, Belinelli's biggest shortcoming has been hidden by his teammates. According to NBA.com, the Spurs' team defensive rating with Belinelli on the floor is 96.1 (which is pretty good).

The San Antonio defense is ever-so-slightly more efficient (94.7 rating) when Belinelli is on the bench, but that is such a tedious difference because of his offense. Belinelli is an important reason why the Spurs have a 112.5 offensive rating with him compared to 101.5 without.

Individually, Belinelli has continued to make strides defensively, but it's the collective effort by San Antonio that has helped made him a perfect fit.

It's the kind of perfect fit that helps a team make a deep playoff run, something the Spurs are fully capable of doing once again.


Note: Stats taken from NBA.com and Basketball-Reference. Accurate as of Dec. 11, 2013.

Follow Bleacher Report NBA Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR