Bryn Forbes is having a pretty strong season. He is shooting the ball well, with an effective field goal percentage of 55.8%, in the 91st percentile for combo guards, and a 3-point percentage of 43%, in the 96th percentile for combo guards. The only area he is shooting below average in as a combo guard is at the rim, where he is making 55% of his shots, which is in the 35th percentile.
His points per shot attempts is in the 85th percentile for combo guards at 116.3, his turnover percentage is in the 88th percentile at 10.2%, and his defensive rebounding on opponent’s field goals is above average for his position as well, in the 58th percentile. Even with these strong numbers, however, the Spurs net rating is 7.0 points per 100 possessions higher with Forbes on the bench. What’s the reason behind this drop?
Before the season began, Dejounte Murray was the starting point guard. After he tore his ACL in the pre-season, Derrick White was named the starting point guard. Shortly after, White sustained an injury to his heel. Before both of these injuries, Forbes was likely the 5th guard in the rotation. The starting lineup probably would have been Murray, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Pau Gasol, with Patty Mills and White being the first guards off the bench. After those injuries though, Forbes was named the Spurs’ starting point guard.
In Forbes’ rookie season, when the Spurs assigned Forbes to their G-League affiliate in Austin, coach Gregg Popovich made learning the point guard position an emphasis for Forbes, according to an interview with Forbes in the Lansing State Journal after the 2016-2017 season.
In the interview, he mentions that Popovich told him that even though Forbes was not a “natural point guard,” him learning to play the position would make him “so much more valuable.” In that same interview, Forbes goes on to mention the extra work he put in to learn how to play point guard.
“Every day after practice I’d do a point guard workout after for an hour,” he said.
If Forbes didn’t spend the time and effort learning how to play point guard, the Spurs’ season could have started even rougher than it did. He rose to the occasion and performed above expectations in a role that he wasn’t expected to play before the season.
The team performs well when they are able to shift Forbes over to shooting guard, though. Lineups with Forbes at point guard have a net rating of -10.5 points per 100 possessions, but lineups with Forbes at shooting guard have a net rating of +2.2 points per 100 possessions. That number is probably lower than it should be, as the Spurs second-most played lineup with Forbes at shooting guard (White, Forbes, DeRozan, Dante Cunningham, and Aldridge) has a -22.7 net rating, but each of the other seven most played lineups have positive net ratings.
The most played lineup with Forbes at shooting guard (White, Forbes, DeRozan, Gay, and Aldridge) has a +4.8 net rating in 508 possessions. The third through fifth most played lineups with Forbes at shooting guard all have a net rating of better than +23 points per 100 possessions in over 100 possessions.
In 2298 possessions with Forbes at shooting guard, the Spurs have an offensive rating of 113.2, an effective field goal percentage of 55.1%, and a turnover percentage of 12.5%, all solid numbers.
With Forbes at shooting guard, the Spurs are able to surround DeRozan and Aldridge with some of the best shooting talent on the team. White’s three-point percentage is in the 77th percentile for point guards at 37.5%, and each of Gay, Mills, Forbes, Bertans, and Cunningham are better than the 90th percentile for their positions. In the seven most played lineups with Forbes at shooting guard, the Spurs have three of those players on the court at the same time.
Lineups with Mills as the point guard and Forbes on the bench are outscoring opponents by 2.8 points per 100 possessions. When the Spurs play Forbes with Mills, the Spurs outscore opponents by 4.9 points per 100 possessions. Lineups with White as the point guard and Forbes on the bench are actually better than when White plays with Forbes (+11.4 net rating and +0.5 net rating, respectively), but there can be several reasons for this.
The most played lineup with White on the floor and Forbes on the bench consists of four bench players, and the Spurs’ bench has been strong most of the season. Two other lineups with Mills taking Forbes’ spot with starting players otherwise (White, Mills, DeRozan, Gay, and Aldridge and White, Mills DeRozan, Bertans, and Aldridge) are performing strong, too, with a +12.4 net rating and a +61.1 net rating respectively, but both of these lineups have played fewer than 50 possessions, a fairly small sample, in my opinion.
Of the 240 minutes in the first 5 games during the Rodeo Road trip, Forbes has played with Mills less than 56 minutes, according to nba.com/stats. While Forbes has been solid as the Spurs’ starting point guard, the team’s play with him at shooting guard is great. White’s eventual return from injury will allow Forbes to play at shooting guard position again, unlocking a stronger Spurs’ starting lineup.
Stats from CleaningTheGlass.com unless otherwise noted.