The San Antonio Spurs guard has torched his competition over the past few weeks, but what does it mean for his future in the NBA?
Foto: Kevin Jairaj - USA TODAY Sports
Hyperbolic player comparisons can run through Summer League evaluation like blue flame through a streak of gasoline if you're not careful. With that said, San Antonio Spurs guard Bryn Forbes, easily the league's most fluid scorer in July, looks like Las Vegas' very own Steph Curry.
Going back to his fireworks display in Utah earlier this month, the 23-year-old has scored 152 points in six games. He's shooting 42.1 percent from beyond the arc and dicing up defenses in enough ways—off the ball, at the free-throw line, and with unbalanced pull-ups—that it might be time to slightly reevaluate his usefulness at the NBA level.
Nobody averaged more points in Utah than Forbes (the next four leading scorers were Dante Exum, Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown), and nobody's averaging more in Vegas. If you look at the selection, type, and level of difficulty of Forbes' shots, some of them shouldn't even be attempted, let alone made.
"I just didn't know what to expect from myself, but I knew I'd put in a lot of work so I expected good things," Forbes said. "I think the game's getting a little simpler. I've been learning a lot. I tried to work on my game in all different ways, whether it's watching film or doing this or doing that. I'm just trying to get better in all ways and it makes the game a lot easier when you do that."
None of this means Forbes equals Curry, or even that we will see a meteoric rise next season. He only made 32.1 percent of his threes in the NBA last year, and shot 23.3 percent when "open," according to NBA.com. Considering the Spurs just signed Patty Mills—potentially a more mature Forbes clone—to a four-year, $50 million contract, it's fair to assume his stellar play is a bit of a surprise in San Antonio, too. When VICE Sports asked Spurs assistant coach Will Hardy if Forbes was exceeding expectations, he didn't pretend like 35-point bombs were the assumption heading in.
"I think he has," Hardy said. "He's continued to stay aggressive and he's in a good rhythm right now, and his mindset is really good on [the offensive] end."
Forbes' rookie season was 285 minutes long. It's a tiny sample size, and doesn't represent how well he's shot the ball in just about every other basketball environment throughout his life. He nailed 48.1 percent of his threes on nearly seven attempts per game during his senior season at Michigan State—which led to a 66.7 True Shooting percentage, the second highest in the Big Ten—and then went undrafted despite making 77 of 100 threes during a pre-draft workout, more than any other prospect.
Last year, he was the most accurate G-League player to launch at least six threes per game, drilling an unfathomable 45.9 percent of them over 19 games.
Right before the playoffs, Forbes exploded for a career-high 27 points against a Dallas Mavericks team that started Wesley Matthews, Dirk Nowitzki, Nerlens Noel, and Harrison Barnes. And in 43 possessions operating as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, he ranked in the 95th percentile, per Synergy Sports.
"He's a very skilled offensive player," Hardy said. "I've said before, it's not just catch and shoot. He's got a nice game off the bounce, he's really good off the ball, so he's tough to guard because he can get it in a lot of different ways."
When defenses trap Forbes off a high screen, San Antonio simply relocates him to the weak side and takes advantage of his absurd gravity. Leaving him open to tag a rolling big isn't a smart option right now.
But he's more than a finesse outside threat. Hours in the weight room mixed with sauna-like sweat-inducing workouts have improved Forbes' conditioning and strength. He's attacking the basket at will, driving right and left off picks and staying level after contact. Heading into Wednesday's action, only two players have attempted more free throws: Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss and Houston Rockets forward Troy Williams.
"I worked my ass off this summer," Forbes said.
All this is wonderful, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. Summer League does not accurately reflect the speed, length, athleticism, and strategy seen in the NBA. A quick look at leading scorers from the past few summers shows that there's no guaranteed translation—Forbes' career Summer League scoring average is currently the exact same as Jimmer Fredette's.
Next year, Mills, Danny Green, second-year point guard Dejounte Murray, and, potentially, Manu Ginobili will fill a majority of San Antonio's backcourt minutes while Tony Parker recovers from a ruptured tendon in his left quadricep, but as a third or fourth guard off the bench—and someone who can spot start while Gregg Popovich cautiously navigates the 82-game regular season—Forbes is explosive enough to needle his way into the rotation in 2018.
Shooters don't grow on trees, particularly those who can attack a closeout or pose a reasonable threat pulling up from 28 feet. Forbes has those traits in his back pocket, and he could wind up being San Antonio's next diamond in the rough.