Marco Belinelli: Is This Role For Real?Filed under: News; Tagged as: Andrea Bargnani, Andris Biedrins, Brandan Wright, Bruce Bowen, Chris Bosh, Derek Fisher, Don Nelson, Greg Willard, Jason Kapono, Jason Richardson, Kevin Garnett, Leon Powe, Leon Wood, Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli, Mickael Pietrus, Monta Ellis, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Tony Allen
By Geoff Lepper
In 18 months as an NBA player, Marco Belinelli’s stock has gone through more roles than a TV character actor: Summer League star, Jason Richardson replacement, defensive sieve, bench ornament, unhappy camper, trade bait.
So is Belinelli’s latest turn — reborn playmaker — just another phase, destined to vanish like the next full moon?
It’s still too early to tell for certain, but in the 13 games since Don Nelson refocused the Warriors’ attack, Belinelli has already weathered one dip and ridden it out. I figured that after back-to-back poor performances in Florida — combined 7-for-24 shooting with four turnovers against five assists in Orlando and Miami — Belinelli’s run was at an end, and that he would go back to being a pumpkin, metaphorically speaking.
Instead, he had one of his two best games of the season in the Warriors’ 117-111 win over Toronto on Monday: 23 points, 6-12 FG, 5-8 3FG, 6-6 FT, 6 AST, 2 TO.
After that game, Warriors coach Don Nelson said Belinelli was succeeding in the team’s revamped, Euro-style offense — 47.5 FG, 40.0 3FG, 16.0 PPG, 3.3 APG — because “he’s a much better shooter on the move than he is stationary.”
I disagree. Belinelli has tamed the wild leg kick that used to punctuate his shooting motion, but he still often twists his lower body to the left when he fires while moving, both off the dribble and situations where he catches and shoots on a cut.
In the Toronto game, for example, Belinelli was 1-for-6 off dribble-drives, 1-for-2 while catching on the move, and 4-for-4 (three of those from deep) on standing shots. All three of those treys came on plays that began with Stephen Jackson driving and drawing multiple defenders, then kicking out, either directly to Belinelli or through an intermediary.
The bigger surprise on offense has been Belinelli’s emergence as a passer. He’s never going to be a straight point guard in the NBA, not unless he significantly upgrades his open-court ballhandling, but as a half-court initiator, he’s just a half-step behind Jackson and Jamal Crawford in terms of finding open shooters.
The style of Belinelli’s passing makes it seem as though he’s cavalierly throwing the ball around. Just as many Italians would find speech without the punctuation provided by their hand gestures to be unacceptably bland, Belinelli seems to use a two-handed chest pass only as a means of last resort. Witness Belinelli’s behind-the-back dish in the lane to Brandan Wright on the left baseline [1, 6:45] (there was no assist because Wright allowed Chris Bosh to erase the shot), or his one-handed whip pass to Andris Biedrins for a layup [3, 6:07]. That dish was zipped into a tiny opening created when Andrea Bargnani briefly lost eye contact with the ball and couldn’t quite recover in time.
At the defensive end, Belinelli is much improved from last year, when he looked timid on many occasions and, even more often, just befuddled. Belinelli is best utilized against a bigger player, rather than chasing a quicker man, although he did a credible job shadowing Rajon Rondo for some time in the Warriors’ win against Boston.
The one thing he’s doing spectacularly well at the defensive end is eliciting offensive fouls from players who don’t have the energy or willingness to deal with his peskiness.
Against Boston, he drew six offensive fouls:
1, 3:45: Tony Allen tries to come up from the right block while Leon Powe shuttles down from the elbow to switch places. Belinelli, who had been playing Allen on the high side, gets his right arm around Allen to prevent him from going wide, then falls over backwards as Allen extends his arms to get free, directly in front of referee Greg Willard. FOUL OR FLOP? Flop. Belinelli was moving backwards, not set, while impeding Allen’s movement.
3, 8:37: Ray Allen initiates from the top of the key with a pass to Kevin Garnett in the high right post, then loops left around a Powe pick. Belinelli does not slow in the slightest and caroms wildly off Powe to the ground, doing a 180 spin in midair. As before, this whole minidrama plays out practically in the lap of an official — this time, Leon Wood — who adjudicates in favor of Belinelli. FOUL OR FLOP? It may not be an outright flop, but it ain’t much of a foul, either. Belinelli made little attempt to avoid a pretty well-established screen. This probably should have been a no-call, but those (idiotically) no longer exist in this league.
3, 7:39: Ray Allen comes top-key right and faces the basket as Rondo initiates, with Belinelli standing chest-to-chest. As Allen tries to make a cut to his right without the ball, he uses his left arm to hook Belinelli in an attempt to create separation. FOUL OR FLOP? Foul, and an especially galling mistake given that Allen had a Kevin Garnett screen looming in the near future to rub out Belinelli.
4, 9:29: Tony Allen tries to ball-handle around a Paul Pierce screen at the left elbow. Pierce leans hard to his right to deliver the shoulder block to Belinelli, who once again ricochets hard in the opposite direction after contact. FOUL OR FLOP? Foul, because Pierce is leaning at about a 30-degree angle to deliver the shot. If he’d stayed vertical, it probably would have been a clean screen.
4, 5:29: A pure frustration foul on the part of Ray Allen, who is clearly bothered by Belinelli’s body contact while attempting to establish position on the left wing and flails with both arms to incur the whistle. FOUL OR FLOP? Foul.
4, 4:39: Kevin Garnett clocks Belinelli with another frustration reaction, although this one at least merits a whistle. FOUL OR FLOP? Foul. (Three minutes later, apparently unsatisfied, Garnett bodychecks Belinelli, a move that did not get called but pretty clearly should have been.)
Against the Lakers, Belinelli goaded Luke Walton into pushing off to create space. Against the Raptors, he just flat-out flopped for calls against Bargnani (attempting to post up Belinelli on a switch) and Bosh (trying to screen for Jason Kapono).
There have been plenty of comparisons drawn between Belinelli and Manu Ginobili, but aside from prominent noses, Italian heritage and one common move — driving down and across the lane from the right elbow with two giant steps to set up a floater from the left block — I don’t see it.
Ginobili is much more of a driver (his career FTA-per-minute rate is nearly three times that of Belinelli) and a far superior rebounder to Belinelli, who, in turn, is a more natural 3-point shooter (it took Ginobili five years to crack the 39-percent barrier on treys in the NBA; Belinelli shot 39.0 last season and is at 39.5 this year).
I would argue Belinelli is more in the mold of a Bruce Bowen or Derek Fisher, at least defensively: Someone who can get very handsy, willing to try to drive an opponent crazy, and then taking advantage by embellishing on the ensuing contact to draw offensive fouls.
I’m still not convinced that, once Monta Ellis gets healthy, Belinelli’s playing time won’t shrink. But he’s got the better part of another month, most likely, to prove me wrong.
The Lineup Project
It’s a triumphant return for smallball, which has finally passed up the “traditional” lineup in terms of YTD effectiveness. (The Small group is now minus-7.1 per 48 minutes; the Medium group is minus-8.1.)
I’m going to a New Year’s Eve celebration, so there won’t be a live take on the Thunder game. I’ll check it out on tape and get back to you.
9 Responses to “Marco Belinelli: Is This Role For Real?”
Son of Ahmed December 31st, 2008 at 3:58 pm
Happy New Year, Geoff.
I like your assessment of Belinelli. I agree that he and Mano are not very comparable. I also agree with you that he will never be a full time point guard, but not because of his dribbling as you say. I think he is a very good dribbler, and I’m not sure why he’s been knocked on this by so many observers. Compared to JRich, he looks like Tim Hardaway in terms of dribbling. No, what prevents Belinelli from being an effective full time point guard is his speed. He’s just too slow to get the Dubs going at the pace they play best in and he can’t break down defenses.
Marco with his worst game of the old year.
I blame Geoff.
Anonymous December 31st, 2008 at 10:22 pm
Nice way to end 2008 by losing to the worst fucking team in the league!
Marco has a lot of qualities that make him a potentially very important player for the Ws. His emergence has been one of the positives in this difficult year. If I were coaching him, though, I’d want him to stay more focused and aggressive all the time. Sometimes he coasts after making a pass. Keep moving and stay energized. Be more aggressive generally. Take control. He has the moxie, but sometimes defers too much, going long stretches without looking for his shot. The offense should be designed to make sure he gets up more shots than he is currently taking. It’s important to keep in mind that he is just now getting a shot at playing. Sometimes you play well, other times you don’t, especially when you’re young and inexperienced.
Warriors ran into a highly motivated Thunder team tonight that has been playing much better against nearly everyone in the past couple weeks. That loss should not be interpreted too negatively.
BUT, here is the one caveat. This would have been the perfect game to use Anthony Randolph for meaningful minutes. We were getting hammered inside and adding Anthony to the mix would have changed the nature of the inside play. Seems he’s being punished to the detriment of the team. He could have been a momentum changer when so many things were going wrong. We needed a spark and nobody else was providing it.
commish January 1st, 2009 at 10:38 am
Marco’s maturation has been fun to watch as his minutes and confidence grows. I can’t help but be very cynical in thinking he’d still be pining (pun intended) to head back to Europe but not for the injuries to Jax and specifically Maggette. I’m most interested what will happen with his playing time and by inference his performance when Corey returns shortly. The recent signing and trading that has brought us Maggette and Crawford has produced five good players who will be competing for the same limited minutes: Maggette, Crawford, Bukie, Marco, and certainly Jackson. You could easily argue Crawford could play point but a healthy Monta, hopefully, will be returning sometime in January and he will start picking up lots of minutes. It is clear we need to trade Maggette but that won’t be so easy in the short term unless something really lucky befalls us; and of course that isn’t in our karma, so to speak. But maybe 2009 will bring us some good luck. One can hope.
Marco sucks. The sooner the homer fanboyz figure this out, the better for them in the longrun.
His terrible defense and a$$ floor game last night (oh, but those three great runs into traffic, jumps in the air, cross-court fling passes! Swoooooooooon!!!!!) greatly contributed to the loss.
Not as much as Jackson and Nelson, but a close third place despite Crawford’s best efforts to be totally useless.
M.Squared January 2nd, 2009 at 12:53 pm
Marco’s passing has been contagious. It has gotten others to share the ball and has put Biedrens in some very favorable spots on the floor for scoring.
I would like to see him start next to Ellis so that he can handle the ball some in the half court. Let Ellis run the break.
Bukie, Maggette and Crawford would provide a lot of scoring off the bench and could be a nice spark when Jack, Marco or Ellis come out. As much as I dont think he will do it, Nellie needs to go with a traditional 5, allowing Wright, Turiaf, Beidrens and Randolph to play the 4/5 spots.
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TagsAcie Law Al Harrington Allen Iverson Andris Biedrins Anthony Morrow Anthony Randolph Baron Davis Brandan Wright C.J. Watson Chris Cohan Chris Hunter Chris Mullin Corey Maggette Dan Dickau DeMarcus Nelson Devean George Don Nelson Gilbert Arenas Jamal Crawford Jason Richardson Jeff Fried Jermareo Davidson Keith Smart Kelenna Azubuike Kevin Durant Kevin Garnett Kobe Bryant Larry Riley Marco Belinelli Marcus Williams Matt Barnes Mickael Pietrus Mikki Moore Monta Ellis Patrick O'Bryant Richard Hendrix Robert Rowell Rob Kurz Ronny Turiaf Stephen Curry Stephen Jackson Stephon Marbury Steve Nash Troy Murphy Vladimir Radmanovic
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