Davis Bertans: Inside the Arc

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Project Spurs illustration/Getty Images

Davis Bertans is one of the best modern marksmen the game of basketball has to offer. Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets is the only player in the NBA with a better three-point percentage (47.8%)this season, but Bertans lays claim to the best catch-and-shoot success rate (48.6%) in the league.

While most people associate the Latvian Laser with quickfire triples from all around the perimeter, Bertans has steadily grown his game over the course of the year. His shot distribution has varied greatly from one period to the next, and over the last 14 games, he’s expanded his range.

The previous proclamation may be a bit confusing considering a three-point specialist doesn’t exactly have more court to cover, so let me explain. Bertans has made a living drilling long-distance bombs since he arrived from overseas, but recently the stretch-four has been more willing to step inside of the arc.

As a result, we’ve seen Bertans pull up from midrange, put the ball on the floor and take it to the rim with much higher frequency. It’s fairly clear he’s operating outside of his comfort zone, but Bertans can only improve from this experience.

After all, the best way to solidify new habits is to put them to practice in games that matter. And for the San Antonio Spurs to keep their two-decade-long playoff streak alive, every game left on their schedule has to matter.

Coach Popovich rarely gives young guys an opportunity like this unless he believes they’re ready to contribute to winning today. If Pop is buying into Bertans, then he sees something special in the third-year big man.

Now, you may be wondering why Bertans has played such a well-rounded game of late, and the answer is simple. The absence of Derrick White coupled with greater minutes has forced the lanky forward to take a heavier dose of shots while looking for other ways to score.

At first glance, you’ll notice his shooting numbers have virtually dipped across the board. Although this may seem unsettling for a spot-up shooter, Bertans has actually been quite helpful in his new role.

Davis was already a headache to cover because of his excellent off-ball movement, and now opposing defenders are tasked with anticipating the possibility he passes up the three-ball. This may seem insignificant, but spreading the love has opened up the floor for his teammates.

So far, all this change hasn’t produced immediate results. At least not in the win column.

The Spurs are 6-8 in Bertans’ last 14 appearances and 0-3 since the All-Star Break. Despite their pitiful play, I wouldn’t blame it all on experimental rotations and schemes.

Let’s not forget a hobbled San Antonio team just completed a grueling eight-game Rodeo Road Trip. Winning on the road hasn’t been their calling card in recent years, and an extended stint away from home was destined to add on at least a few losses.

The evolution of Davis Bertans hasn’t been the smoothest transition for either party, but all of the growing pains will pay off eventually. The Spurs are known for their excellent player development, and Bertans is blossoming before our eyes.

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