There is a video on Youtube that depicts a 22 year old Marco Belinelli performing an under the legs to behind the back crossover into a left handed no look pass to a teammate for an open three. He's seen again in the same video, three minutes later, hitting a fadeaway jumper on the baseline from behind the backboard and falling out of bounds. Youtube goes on to suggest that those intrigued by this particular exhibition of athletic excellence might find their senses similarly galvanized by another video entitled "Belinelli 360° dunk," which, surprisingly if we're being honest, does not disappoint.
Unfortunately for the player and his fans, the content of these two videos hasn't exactly defined his four year career. Three comments posted under that second video do a much better job of that - "Welcome to New Orleans!!", "WELCOME TO THE RAPTORS MARCO!", and "Sani Booy! Sani Booooy!." The first and second capture the overarching theme of his career thus far - anticipation preceding disappointment, rinse, repeat - while the third confuses me almost as much as his game. Why does he handle like Steve Nash one moment and impetuously leave his feet to chuck the ball at Emeka Okafor's toes the next? Nobody knows, outside of possibly Sani Booy and his omnifariously voweled friends.
I don't think too many onlookers would label Belinelli's first season with the Hornets a total failure. But the fact of the matter is, when a player (playing, it should be noted, for a team crying out in anguish for a shooter that wouldn't make us groan four seconds before the ball left his hands) loses his starting job to Willie Green at any point for any duration, something has gone at least marginally wrong. Such was the case here. Belinelli won't be remembered for any of his offensive contributions outside of his shot, and to his own detriment, he will be remembered for his defensive ones.
All that said? The shot is still world class. The range on the shot is immense. For a team like New Orleans and for a player like Chris Paul, it's an imperative component of the roster. I'll put up with one hundred more blown assignments if it means I get to watch Trevor Ariza and Willie Green shoot one hundred less threes. The majority of Belinelli's game - the passing, the "defense," the rebounding, the help - were all sadly exposed. Nobody will be clamoring for him to start next year, and they shouldn't be. But his outside shot is an elite one, and the compensation his qualifying offer assures isn't far out of line with the average price the market dictates for shooters.
Following are the top three point shooters employed primarily for their shooting ability in 2011, accompanied by their 2011-2012 salaries. The "employed for their shooting ability" caveat removes those players that perform additional roles outside of simple shooting and scoring - so players like Ray Allen, Stephen Curry and Mike Bibby (point), Richard Jefferson (multidimensional scorer), Arron Afflalo (defense), Wesley Matthews, Hedo Turkoglu, and Chauncey Billups (etc) are removed.
1. Matt Bonner - 46% - 3.5 million
2. James Jones - 43% - 1.7 million
3. Anthony Morrow - 42% - 4.0 million
4. Gary Neal - 42% - 0.8 million
5. Jared Dudley - 42% - 4.3 million
6. Kyle Korver - 42% - 5.0 million
7. Daniel Gibson - 40% - 4.4 million
8. Mike Dunleavy - 40% - out of contract, 10 million in 2011
9. Channing Frye - 39% - 5.6 million
10. Dorell Wright - 38% - 3.7 million
11. Carlos Delfino - 37% - 3.5 million
12. C.J. Miles - 32% - 3.7 million
The salaries of James Jones and Gary Neal are anomalous due to involvement with the HEAT and the rookie contract scale respectively, but Jones has slotted into the 3-5 million range in the past while Neal will surely do so when he signs his next contract.
Marco Belinelli comes in right around the sixth spot on the list; he was a 41% shooter last year, he hit 134 threes, and his q.o. starts at 3.4 million. It's a figure that sounds much too high on paper, but the Hornets severely lack what I'd term "organic" three point ability at other positions (i.e., players that can contribute in multiple ways and also efficiently convert from range). As they're currently constructed, they require a specialist on the roster, and under the current CBA, three point specialists will cost a team between 3 and 5 million no matter what. None of the twelve players on the above list offer much more than Marco Belinelli outside of their shooting ability; they all earn that money for one reason alone.
Ultimately, we don't know if anyone will offer Belinelli more than 3 million dollars on the open market if Dell Demps allows Marco to become an unrestricted free agent. The uncertainty surrounding the new CBA and cap rules guarantees that. It certainly seems unlikely at this point. But even if the team does attempt to bargain him down, how much money will they truly save? He won't be signing for the minimum; I'll guarantee you that right now. 2 million would be a bargain relative to his fellow specialists, but would $1 million in savings be worth the risk of losing the team's only shooter?
I simply don't see it.