Column: The 76ers didn’t get a Fiat, they got a Ferrari

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Philadelphia 76ers guard Marco Belinelli, right, of Italy, looks to pass around Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lamb in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday, April 1, 2018. Philadelphia won 119-102. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

The NBA “Buyout Market” elicits visions of a beaten used car lot somewhere. Various vehicles are on display, each with their own defects that have brought them to this lot. None are all that enticing, but none are all that expensive, so eventually you grab what looks best and hope for the best.

When Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Bryan Colangelo went shopping, he came away with two of the best performing commodities for sale. Veterans Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, recently freed from the deliberately sinking Atlanta Hawks, decided to join Philly and its wide array of unique talent.

Each is fundamentally flawed, but does some things well. I expect Colangelo anticipated being able to ride out their experience as the team got healthy (JJ Redick and Markelle Fultz were injured at the time) and use their remaining miles to position for postseason success.

The buyout market is full of lemons. Derrick Rose is -27 per 100 possessions since he was scooped up by the Timberwolves. Belinelli is neither young nor an athlete, he reasonably could have busted out on a deep team like Philly.

Yet the Italian has been sensational and helping a dark horse Philly team take a genuine drive at a wide open Eastern Conference Finals.

Since he has signed with Philadelphia, he has been sensational. Operating with a 16 percent usage rate, the lowest since his rookie year a decade ago, he is producing 132.2 points per shot attempt, according to Cleaningtheglass.com. That mark puts Belinelli in the 97th percentile among wings.

Belinelli is not an attacker, he’s a shooter. He only takes 19.2 percent of his shots at the rim, but when he does, he makes 79 percent. Again, 97th percentile. He takes 28 percent of his shots as long twos, (98th percentile), which sounds like a death sentence in the Morey Ball NBA. But he makes 56 percent of them, good for the 93rd percentile.

A marksman and former 3-point contest champion, Belinelli is shooting a strong 41 percent from beyond the arc. However, he doesn’t like the corner 3-pointer, understood to be the easiest iteration of the shot. On non-corner threes, he is hitting 44 percent, again in the 93rd percentile. Belinelli’s overall mid-range field goal percentage of 55 percent is the best in the league. His field goal percentage of 63.6 percent is in the 99th percentile, and his effective field goal percentage, which factors in the additional value of a 3-pointer, is 62.6 percent, putting him in the 98th percentile for that as well.

If that was messy for you, the point is he can shoot. But since heading up to the City of Brotherly Love, he is shooting better than just about everyone in almost every way.

Belinelli was having a good year for Atlanta, but he has been incredible since moving on. He comes off the bench as a secret weapon of sorts, but is playing 25.2 minutes per game, his most since 2012-2013. He’s still an elite free throw shooter, is sneaky good at drawing fouls and in a 76ers uniform has been converting “and one’s” as well.

In Philly’s last 10 games—all wins as part of a 16-game winning streak—Belinelli is averaging 16.2 points per game on roughly 59 percent from the field. The 76ers are 20-5 since signing him and he is posting career-best, or near-best numbers.

When the playoffs come around, we’ll see what he can do. His weaknesses will be targeted, and he can be game planned for. Yet he’s really an ancillary piece. Calling him a Ferrari is an overstatement; that title belongs to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

But when Colangelo brought Belinelli on to see what he could do, I highly doubt he expected this time of contribution. His signing has already been a success and then some relative to expectation. Most people can’t afford flashy cars, they look for the most utility possible. As a 76er, Belinelli hasn’t just been serviceable, he’s been a monster.


Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.barresi@uconn.edu.

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