Reviewing the season of Bryn Forbes, one of Denver’s mid-season additions to shore up their bench unit
Bryn Forbes 2021-22 Nuggets per game stats
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The story of the regular season
On January 19th, 2022, the Denver Nuggets acquired Bryn Forbes from the San Antonio Spurs that sent PJ Dozier and Bol Bol to the Boston Celtics, along with a future second round pick to San Antonio. It was a bittersweet moment for Nuggets fans to see Dozier go after tearing his ACL in late November, but the Nuggets desperately needed help with their bench unit, and Forbes represented one of several steps the Nuggets took to improve the minutes without Nikola Jokić.
Forbes, a six-year veteran, has found a niche in the NBA as a floor spacing guard. Shooting is one of the most coveted skills in the NBA, and Forbes is one of the NBA’s most lethal shooters. Among the 70 players in the NBA since 2016-17 (Forbes’ rookie season) to attempt at least as many three-pointers as Forbes has in his NBA career, the bench sharpshooter ranks fifth in three-point percentage at 41.3%, right ahead of Stephen Curry at 41.2%.
So, the Nuggets knew what they were getting when they acquired Forbes, and he didn’t disappoint. Forbes shot 41.0% from three-point range, basically his career average, while coming off the bench for the Nuggets. Though there were other weaknesses in his game, the Nuggets finally found their floor spacing off the bench by playing Bones Hyland at point guard and Forbes at shooting guard. Those two were a strong outside shooting duo throughout the second half of the season, and they combined to have some important games in stabilizing Denver’s bench unit. After adding DeMarcus Cousins as a bench center, the Nuggets could finally look upon their bench as at least a net neutral for awhile, and compared to where they started, that means something.
Did it translate to the playoffs?
Forbes scored just 20 points across five playoff games for Denver against Golden State, and though his shooting efficiency was perfectly reasonable, it wasn’t the scoring that held him back. The Warriors focused in on Denver’s weaknesses during the postseason, and Forbes’ biggest weakness was synonymous with Denver biggest issue: perimeter defense. The Nuggets couldn’t stop the Warriors, and Forbes didn’t have the requisite size or athleticism necessary to keep up with the Warriors on the perimeter. Forbes averaged just over 13 minutes per game in the non-blowout games as the Nuggets needed as many defensive options as they could muster.
Was that fair to Forbes? Probably not. In previous stops with the San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks, those teams had personnel capable of insulating Forbes’ biggest weaknesses. The Nuggets simply didn’t, and though that’s a Forbes issue, it’s also a Nuggets issue in the present and future.
Best Moment – Comeback win against Golden State
The Nuggets had brought in Forbes the month prior to be a bench shooting and scoring threat, and he certainly had some good moments during that span. The most important moment though came in the final game before the All-Star break against the Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry and co. were blitzing Denver’s starters, and it took strong bench performances from Bryn Forbes and Austin Rivers to keep Denver in the game. The Nuggets could have rolled over on the road in that circumstance and nobody would have bat an eye. Instead, they persevered, leaning on Forbes’ scoring and Rivers’ defense to keep the close all the way until the end of the game when the Nuggets stole it right from under the Warriors on a Monte Morris buzzer beater.
Season Grade – B
The Nuggets brought in Forbes to be a shooter, to space the floor for the bench unit and provide occasional spacing for the starters too. That’s exactly what he did, and it earns him a ‘B’ grade right off the bat. The reason it can’t go any higher is because that was what Forbes was expected to do, and there were too few games by the end of the regular season and playoffs where Forbes truly exceeded expectations. His flaws were difficult to overcome, and they actually helped contribute to Denver’s biggest weakness in the playoffs.
What does the future hold for Bryn Forbes?
An unrestricted free agent heading into the off-season, Forbes has the right to pick and choose where he wants to go. Teams can always use shooting, and it’s likely that some team that needs to fill out the back end of a rotation with three-point marksmanship will go after Forbes.
The Nuggets could always use more shooting too, but they also have other priorities. Perimeter defense and wing size are the two most important areas of growth, and while Forbes has skills of his own, his weaknesses directly conflict with where the Nuggets have to improve.
Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. will be back next season, and assuming they step back into their starting roles without incident, that means Denver’s two most important shooters will be heavy contributors. More shooting around them would be nice, but it might be overkill. In addition, Monte Morris, Bones Hyland, and Will Barton remain under contract for Denver, meaning there’s enough shooting for Denver to be just fine going forward without Forbes.
Could Forbes be back? Absolutely. Will Forbes be back? It seems unlikely. Barring a significant change to Denver’s current roster, expect the Nuggets to let Forbes walk in search of a new deal with a playoff team while Denver attempts to patch a new hole in their bench rotation with a stronger wing defender.