Spurs season preview: Belinelli is the X-Factor


Project Spurs kicks off its San Antonio Spurs 2013-14 season preview with an article from Jose Grijalva on Marco Belinelli being the team's X-Factor.

When Marco Belinelli decided to turn down more lucrative offers and sign with the San Antonio Spurs, the team essentially hit a jackpot.

Even though the team was one win away from an NBA championship last season, Belinelli is exactly what the Spurs were missing in the postseason and that's exactly why he'll be the X-Factor for the Spurs this season.

One of Marco's most well known traits on the court is his shooting, something that's been mentioned since his performances last playoffs as a member of the Chicago Bulls. His overall shooting numbers aren't that impressive (especially his 3FG%), but there's many factors to that which should comfort Spurs fans.

Before even discussing his statistics, one big factor to his numbers and percentages to remember is that there was no dominant or above average player on offense that opposing teams needed to focus their defense on. With that being a huge factor in itself, he still managed to shoot 41% from the field and 34% from the 3-point line.

It's expected those numbers will improve with a better passing team that has players in motion and a big man like Tim Duncan on the inside. Although his shot from beyond the arc wasn't impressive during the playoffs, Belinelli did shoot 40.9% from beyond the arc on the road. That should encourage Spurs fans since it was something that was lacking from role players such as Danny Green and Gary Neal in crunch time situations that took place in Games 6 and 7 in the NBA Finals last season.

Another part of Belinelli's game that's not often talked about is his versatility on offense.

For the past few seasons Spurs fans have seen head coach Gregg Popovich sacrifice ball handling and passing for shooting with the likes of Roger Mason Jr. and Gary Neal. Belinelli's overall game includes ball handling and better passing than the two mentioned, although his stats don't show it.

With Belinelli being able to handle the ball off the bench, that'll allow Manu Ginobili to not be depended upon as the main ball handler or point guard. Ginobili has been successful in that role, but it has seemed it's worn him down the more he's had to do it especially against quicker backup point guards off the bench. When Manu was assigned as a backup ball handler during the champonship years, it was more of a luxury since the team also had a taller guard who could play the position in Brent Barry.

This is probably the closest the Spurs will get during the Tim Duncan era of having someone replace Barry in the role he filled. Marco's versatility will allow Pop to play numerous lineups in the 1-3 positions and not having to adjust much with a new ball handler on the court.

We don't know how Belinelli will fit with the Spurs just yet, but he's certainly an improvement from what the team had last season with him replacing Neal on the roster.

His versatility on the offensive end won't make the Spurs one dimensional as they were often seen in the playoffs (especially the NBA Finals) and will help the stars of the team rest for the championship run later at the end of the season.

With all this taken into consideration, Belinelli is the San Antonio Spurs' X-Factor for the upcoming season and his play could help keep the championship window open this upcoming season.