Matt Bonner, MIA


Whenever I talk with Matt Moore the conversation invariably leads to Matt Bonner, someone I do my best to defend. Moore thinks Bonner stinks. Shouldn’t be on an NBA court, or something to that effect. He’s the cause of much beard-tugging consternation for our favorite hoophead. My response, the easy response, is to tell Moore that  Bonner eats APM for breakfast, and then smugly kick my feet up and call it a day. No rants against redheads here, thank you.

But the story is starting to shift. And the ranting is increasingly justified.

Dan Oshinsky of KENS 5 makes a noteworthy observation:

For San Antonio’s red-haired sharpshooter, Dec. 19, 2009, was the day everything changed.

That day, in a win over the Pacers, Bonner broke his hand. In the previous 23 games, he’d tallied double digit minutes. He’d been a key part of the Spurs’ rotation.

Bonner returned a month later, but he hasn’t seen nearly as much playing time since. He tallied twice as many minutes against New Orleans on Monday (20:55 total) as he had in the previous three games combined. Since February, he’s played fewer than eight minutes six times.

The reason for Bonner’s limited playing time: he’s a three-point specialist who isn’t shooting very well right now. In November, he shot 52 percent from three. In February, he shot 35.3 percent.

As long as his three-point shooting percentage stays below his career average (40.7 percent), expect Bonner’s playing time to be limited.

Up until recently, I’ve defended Matt Bonner’s place in the rotation as something of an unassailable truth. He appears in far too many positive 5-man units to receive he’s-part-of-the-problem treatment. Wayne Winston recently told me that prior to last year’s playoffs he advised the Mavericks that stopping Matt Bonner was a high priority against the Spurs, one of the most important things for their coaches to key on during the series. And prior to Bonner’s injury, his place in this season’s rotation was practically etched in stone. Heck, Bonner even helped the Spurs’ defense. Yes, that Matt Bonner. Winston explained:

 With Bonner in Spurs have Eff. FG % age of 55% with him out only 51%. I think this means when Bonner is in Spurs spread floor and get good shots. So less transition baskets for opponents. Our defensive rating is based on team points given up; it’s not based on 1 on 1 defense. So if you cut your team’s turnovers and cut transition baskets you can have good rating even if your one on one defense is so so.

But when Matt Bonner isn’t hitting shots, or when he’s only hitting at the rate of 35.3%, he’s sunk, and the team sinks a little with him. In his recent notes from around the league post, even APM guru Wayne Winston couldn’t justify run for Bonner.

Hairston (+23) has been great in limited minutes [during post All-Star play] while Bogans (-11) and Bonner (-4) have struggled [in that same span].

Until recently, Bonner always registered on the plus side of the player rating equation. In other words, the Spurs were, say, +2 (two points) better than their opponents when Bonner was on the court. Now, they’re at least two possessions worse.

It’s a bigger story than simply Bonner. It’s one of those truth by synecdoche moments. The thing San Antonio has lacked this season, perhaps more than anything else, even more than lock down defense, is reliable shooting.

In the early weeks of the season, I drew attention to this problem and labeled it San Antonio’s silent shooting slump. At the time I explained away the problem as too many new faces, too little rhythm. But, of course, that kite doesn’t fly. Not anymore.

The Spurs have a .361 3pt% this season, which isn’t terrible.  It still ranks in the league’s top 10. But if the Spurs were two or three percent more accurate, they’d be a much better team, and for the reasons Winston cited above. Less transition baskets for opponents, better shots for the guys in white hats, and a higher eFG%.  In other words, San Antonio would be considerably more efficient on both sides of the ball.

I’m already thinking about next season’s training camp. The Spurs would be wise to invite a few make-good sharp shooters to Texas.

  • Tyler

    Cue the rants……

  • Tyler

    It really was unfortunate for the Spurs and Bonner when he broke his hand. He was playing the best ball of his career and the team was just starting to play well.

    Here’s to hoping Bonner can regain his stroke.

  • Marcus

    With all the bad talk about the Spurs, I’ll tell you what.. I wouldn’t want to face the Spurs in the first round if I were the Mavs or Nuggets (two overrated teams). Anything can happen in the playoffs. I’m not giving up on Bonner yet.

  • zainn


  • Matt Moore

    Matt Bonner sucks.

  • DieHardSpur

    I am with you there Tyler, I really like Matt Bonner (Even if there is quite often a no-show on the offensive side). The best attribute other than putting the ball in the basket, is hussle. No one can ever watch Matty play and say that he doesnt bring 133.3% to the floor.
    Everyone talks about how bad of a defender that he is; He is slow footed, but I do believe he is better than everyone gives him credit for. After his performance against NO guarding David West, who has given us alot of match-up problems in the past, expect to see him on the floor again on Friday.

    For what it is worth, Matt Bonner is a worthwhile basketball player. He will never give you 20-10, he will never block 2 shots a game over the course of a year, but he will give you the intangibles of spreading the floor for Timmy, and giving you 2-3 three pointers a game. Given his allotted minutes, you cannot expect him to give you more.

    When I watch all these sports idols run around in their half million dollar cars and $20K suits, I wonder what it is that makes them worth what they make. While i do see that the current pay scale is extremely bloated, it is nice to know, that no matter what, when that player is on the floor, he gives it all he has.

    Matt Bonner does this. DeJuan Blair does this. Manu Ginobli does this.

    -I apologize for the rant –

  • NL

    I’ve come to appreciate Matt Bonner and still think he can be valuable coming off the bench, but I’m more intrigued by how you ended the post. What sharp shooters did you have in mind?

  • Hobson13

    Please people. Bonner is good for one thing and that’s shooting the long ball. He can’t handle the rock, he isn’t athletic enough to rebound (although he’s 6’10”), he can’t drive, he can’t defend or block shots. My god do I need to go on. He is a one trick pony. However, don’t believe what I say, turn on the tube next time the Spurs are on and just focus on this guy. His prancing around the court is almost more entertaining than the game itself.

  • Hobson13

    One more thing: Bonner is shooting less than 40% from distance for the year. While not terrible, that’s not particularly “sharpshooting” material. Someone here will make the excuse that he was injured earlier in the year and his shooting subsequently suffered. My response would be that the Spurs played quite well while he was gone earlier in the year. It even freed up quite a bit of time for Dejuan “man-child” Blair and we know what he is capable of doing.

  • Tyler

    Hobson13 – I agree that when he’s not shooting well, he doesn’t need to be on the court (as evidenced by the stats above).

    However, when he is shooting well, he’s deserving of 20 minutes/game. If Bonner returns to pre-injury form, the Spurs are a better team (again, as evidenced by the stats). Just because he’s one dimensional, doesn’t mean he can’t help the team in certain siutations.

    Also, you think watching him run around is funny (and it is), listening to his post game interviews and the sub sandwich series he does (I’m forgetting the name) is hilarious. Best interview on the team and almost as good as Brent Barry.

  • Hobson13

    Tyler: “Just because he’s one dimensional, doesn’t mean he can’t help the team in certain situations.”

    I agree that he is a situational player when hitting his shot, but situational players don’t get 20 minutes of burn per game. I would love to see his commercial. I couldn’t find it on youtube but if anyone has a link please share.


    I couldnt resist….

    Why should Bonner ever play? Is it because we need his 6 points? Maybe its the 1 rebound? No, its got to be his defensive dominance, right?

    This again seems to be more of a personal preference than a sound basketball decision.

    Cant hate on Matt though, He seems to have a strong fan base. We all need support.

    However, I still say and will always say that he is just not a player.

    I knew something was smelly when they paid him 11 million….

    This is why I dont understand the rationale.

    Spurs will pay Bonner million, play him meaningful minutes, and even put him in the starting line up, at the 5, mind you! A guy that is allergic to the paint.

    He is just too limited. Other players can still contribute when their shot isnt falling…Bonner completely disappears.

    Its been years people. He hasnt improved since he got here. Shouldnt he have an inside game by now, a go to move, a better defensive presence, or maybe even be able to get his own shot?

    After all, we have a HOF coach to develope these young guys, right?

    How many decent PF’s could we have gotten over the past two years for 11 million dollars?

    Nothing…I mean Nothing against Matt Bonner personally…Seems like a great guy.

    But, this is not a popularity contest, or is it?

  • junierizzle

    Finally some Love for the Red Rocket.

    I don’t know why people hate on the guy so much.

    He was having a great season until he broke his hand and that’s when POP started messing with the rotations.

    They were 14-10 when he broke his hand.

    In the 14 wins Bonner averaged 10. 6 pts a game.

    Not to mention exploding for 18, 23, and 16 in three of those games.

    The Spurs play better with him because he does spread the floor. ALl his shots are wide open because teams don’t defend him.

    As far as his D goes, can you really blame a 3 point specialist for letting guys like ODOM and WEst take him to the rack?? Even though guys get shots over him, he is still trying. He always has a hand up. ANd there is a thing call a “double team” guys also have to help BOnner out, like they did in the New Orleans game.

    Spurs need consisten 3 point shooting. Bonner had a great game against N.O. He needs to be out there. Who else is going to make em???????????
    I would of said RMJ but if he plays any less he might as well be the towel boy.

    Finally, at the end of your piece you say “The spurs would be wise to invite a few make-good sharp shooters to Texas”

    We knew that since last season. I never knew why the SPurs never got a real 3 point shooter?
    They had Elliot, Ferry,Bowens,Kerr,Finely,Bones.

    I guess they figured BONNER was enough.

  • junierizzle

    @ the Bonner Haters.

    He’s in the NBA. He’s doing something right. Do you know how good you have to be in the NBA?
    He night look funny out there but Matt BOnner will ball you up.

    Folks are saying he is a one trick pony, well yeah.

    He’s out there to hit the three that’s it. That’s all he has to do.

  • Sandy Wyche Jr

    Should the Spurs consider signing Zydrunas Ilgauskas to play next to Duncan or occasionally with out, while Ducan receives some much needed rest.

  • Tom in Bakersfield, CA

    Historically, the Spurs make great use of sharp shooters around Duncan (See Horry, Ferry, Kerr, Finley, Barry, etc…), which until the injury, was a role that Bonner filled well. Other than Horry, all of them had questionable defense, but they spread the floor for Duncan to work and were typically used in rotation with him. Bonner has been a solid role player who, if he can shoot, will fall out of rotation really quick.

  • idahospur

    The problem is, due to this team’s roster, that Bonner is almost required to be the starting 5. Bonner is not and will never be a starter for a talented team. But, as a role player off the bench, he can do his job. His shooting spreads the floor well for teams and his size works well, if paired with a talented player of the same size under the hoop. The Spurs need a new Tim Duncan and Duncan needs to be the new David Robinson, still effective but not the main player on the team. Had Robinson not stepped down from the throne, we may have never seen a championship and Duncan would have gone to Orlando with T-Mac.

  • Tyler

    Hobson13 –

    My point wasn’t that he should play 20 minutes/game every game, regardless. My point was that when he is shooting well, 20 minutes is a reasonable amount. When he isn’t shooting well (which has been the case lately), he shouldn’t play more than 5 minutes. Again, he’s a situational player that can be of use in certain matchups.

    Ballhog –

    You need to delve little a deeper into the metrics than just ppg, rpg, apg, tpg, etc. when assessing Bonner. It’s not just his points or rebounds, but how he affects his teammate’s performance when he is on the court. As reference above, when playing well, Bonner helps the team (2 points better than opposition till he broke the hand). When he isn’t playing well, he hurts the team and his playing time should be reduced, which it has been (as stated by Oshinsky). The fact that this has been the case over the course of the season flies squarely in the face of your statement below, which is uniquivocally false.

    “This again seems to be more of a personal preference than a sound basketball decision.”

  • Joe

    It doesn’t matter if Bonner only averages 10 PPG if Timmy gets single coverage on half the plays because no one wants to give Bonner a wide-open 3. Does anyone know how to look up Timmy’s per-48 stats when he’s paired with Bonner vs. when he plays w/ other front-court players?

  • Tyler

    Also Ballhog, why does it feel that regardless of the topic, your posts are essentially the same? You could probably copy and paste your posts if you wanted, and nothing would be lost. Even when confronted with the slightest shred of evidence that show Bonner or Bogans might actually help the team in certain settings, it doesn’t factor into your argument whatsoever. From my perspective, how can anyone consider your posts objective, when you choose to overlook the data in front of you?

  • David G

    Bonner is a valuable rotation player.

  • Bushka

    I know this has been explained ad Nauseam but here we go again..



    Therefore he is an excellent roleplayer in a team with 3 high usage stars and assorted friends.

    You can replace his points and rebounds but you cannot replace his


    i.e Timmy is doubled less by both bigs when Bonner is on the floor because of SPACING.

    i.e TP can drive the lane easier when Bonner is on the floor because of SPACING.

    i.e More single coverage for Manu and co means more points means a more effecient TEAM.

    Just listen to the people who earn a living doing this.

    Wayne Winston the mavs stats guy tells his employer that in his expert opinion doing a good job on Bonner is KEY.

    Matt Bonner when in form, set up at the three point line is a diabolically good deterrent to doubling down on the all time best ever PF.

    Remember when pop used to pull Bonner out of games because he passed up shots?

    Thats because if he refused to shoot open looks, and was timid he was of no value to the team.

    Pop knows his stuff.


    @ Tyler…Data in front of me? Come on man..Have you ever played this game? I have played this game most of my life…

    I dont disregard the numbers and stats guys..They speak a mean piece too..

    But basketball is about players. It doesnt matter how many cheap shots you attempt at me, Bonner and Bogans still suck.

    I understand folks wanting to be optimistic, and understand that we all dont see things eye to eye…

    Ive played with guys that were really limited in thier game and it hurts a teams chances. Those guys are OK, but when the game getrs intense, they fade.

    Are you telling me that we are contenders in a heated 7 game series against the Lakers, Dalls, or Denver, with Bogans and Bonner playing 20 minutes plus?

    Even as role players, the production of these two veteran players is just not there. Its borderline pitiful…

    Just ease up with the unneccessary attacks…This is a great site and the guys in here debate with class and style. Its what makes this site so great…No cursing and hatefilled tirades…

    Just good old fashioned debate about Spurs basketball…

    Lets keep it clean….

  • Blofeld

    We should just call up Matt’s little bro. Luke from the Toros, that way we could have the Bonner brothers on the court at the same time. I’m sure Pop has thought about his already and is giddy with excitement. Think about it, twice the Bonner and twice the sandwich hunters! We could even make up posters with the Bonner brothers dressed like the Blues Brothers! I can’t contain myself. I think I’ll go sew my head to the carpet now.

  • junierizzle


    Sorry dude but you can’t just say BONNER and BOGANS sucks and think that’s a good argument.
    BONNERs pros clearly out weigh his cons.

    And I think the truth has come out…”I have played this game most of my life”
    No offense dude but now you’re just starting to sound like a hater. Do you think you can do any better? Because You’re kind of implying that they would mess up your game if you played with them.

    As I stated in an earlier post

    BONNER would ball you or any of us up.

    I’m just saying.

    Not every player is a superstar. MOst of them are just okay. Most of them get paid peanuts. YOu talk about BONNER like he’s a Washington General or something.

  • Colin

    I think if Bonner were hitting 40+% of his threes this season, there wouldn’t be this issue of “Bonner sucks dude.” If he were hitting 42%, most people, even his critics, would argue that he would be aptly filling his role of the 3 point specialist. However, as it is, he is only shooting a below average % for him. Similar to RMJ, if Bonner isn’t hitting his shots, there isn’t much use for him to be on the floor. Given his threat from behind the arc, he is worth a look EVERY game to at least get some shots up to see if his stroke is there.

  • Colin

    ………..and yes, Bonner and Bogans could run a pretty good hustle at any YMCA across the country. NBA players CAN PLAY and simply saying that they “suck” speaks volumes to one’s insight (or lack of) about the game. It has come down to an argument of who can be the best role players around the Spurs main producers. If Jefferson and Parker were producing the numbers we anticipated this season, I don’t think we would be scrutinizing the role players the manner that we are.

  • Jim Henderson

    Bonner’s simply an adequate role player. Other than the 3 pointer, he’s below average, but not poor in most other areas. And he does usually hustle better than most. But the 3 pt. shot, when he shoots a high % (.400+), creates his value. As pointed out, since his hand injury he’s at 35%. But for this season, 39.2%; last year, 44.0%; career, 40.7%. He’s basically just had a rough patch since the injuey. He’s not a GREAT 3 pt. shooter, but he’s the best on the team. As you know, Bonner also can create match-up problems, particularly when playing certain teams. As a result it makes sense for Bonner to get some burn in most games (5-10 minutes), and as his shot comes back to his avg., probably 10-20 minutes makes sense, depending on the team. Ultimately we of course would like to upgrade at this important role position in the off-season, if possible.

    I’d like to make a couple of quick points about the meat of the main post, which will focus around the following excerpt:

    “With Bonner in Spurs have Eff. FG % age of 55% with him out only 51%. I think this means when Bonner is in Spurs spread floor and get good shots. So less transition baskets for opponents. Our defensive rating is based on team points given up; it’s not based on 1 on 1 defense. So if you cut your team’s turnovers and cut transition baskets you can have good rating even if your one on one defense is so so.”………

    “I’m already thinking about next season’s training camp. The Spurs would be wise to invite a few make-good sharp shooters to Texas.”

    The overall premise of the post is that we need shooters, and that our team defense would be better as a result. Unfortunately, this conclusion has some problems. Now, I’m not a stat guru, but my understanding is that a high EFG% is weighted in favor of players/teams shooting a higher 3 pt.%. Since Bonner is our best 3 pt. shooter, in a straight-forward way it only makes sense that our team EFG% would be a bit higher with Bonner on the floor. Bonner does allow us to spread the floor a bit more, but I’m not so sure that our OVERALL TEAM SHOOTING PERCENTAGE is higher when Bonner’s on the floor, and yet this is the justification/logic used to suggest that our team defense should be better as well, because of a reduced vulnerability to transition baskets, and getting better looks in our offensive sets.

    And if 3 pt. shooting was a key in improving a team’s defensive efficiency, explain the following:

    Bulls – 2nd in Opp.Team FG%, 13th in pts. allowed, 26th in 3 pt.%
    OKC – 3rd in Opp. Team FG%, 7th in pts. allowed, 22nd in 3 pt.%
    Raptors – 21st in Opp. Team FG%, 26th in pts. allowed, 4th in 3 pt.%
    Spurs – 13th in Opp. Team FG%, 9th in pts. allowed, 6th in 3 pt.%

    Some teams are ranked high in Opp. Team FG%, pts. allowed, AND in team 3 pt. % (e.g., Cleveland, 2nd, 5th, & 2nd), but I don’t see that there’s a high correlation there (unless you’re simply looking to identify the best record in the league?!).

    I would suggest that if we want better overall team defense, including “D” in transition, I think we need to just start playing better, smarter, more aggressive DEFENSE, in all facets. Good 3 pt. shooters may or may not be a bonus, that’s all.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get some more good 3 pt. shooters!

  • Tyler

    junierizzle – Hey now, the Washington Generals can play! (Dead serious – no joke – they really can)

    Ballhog – How long you or I has played the game of basketball or at what level is absolutely irrelevant – the comments section on a sports blog isn’t exactly the best place to have a pissing contest. And yes, the data is in front of you, in this post and in past posts.

    One last thing – I don’t think I took any cheap shots or attacked you unnecessarily. And I certainly wouldn’t classify my earlier posts as a “hate-filled tirade.” I simply think you’re wrong and I’ve laid forth my argument as to why. If you want to take that as an attack on you as a person, well then that’s on you my friend.


  • rj

    i guess i’ve overlooked this guys value. he may be an atrocity on iso situations, but man, he really is a unique weapon. with so much drive/kick and low post doubles, having a 3pt ace at the 5 spot is a rare treasure.

  • Jim M

    Ok I’ve had it with the one dimensional bull, have any of you ever looked to see who’s putting a body on opposing big men so Timmy or whomever can get uncontested boards and who spaces the floor – nuff said, hustle, injecting energy, hustle, did I mention hustle? Yes he moves around on offence to the point of making you dizzy when you watch him but isn’t that the point for a shooter, move get open? And for his defense, yes I must agree he will never be a Bruce Bowen but he hustles, he will always put a hand in your face and he doesn’t give up those stupid and ones. Finally, where do you come up with 11 Mil? He’s closer to 3 mil per year, I’d call that a bargain compared to the likes of some of these so called superstars.

    His shot will be back, he will continue to improve and expand his game and haters will find something else to complain about.

    Spurs in June

  • AP

    It is worth having Matt Bonner on the team for his sandwich blog alone. He’s one of the most unique guys in the league, and not in the Arenas-unique mold. He’s just an average dude who happens to be huge and skilled enough to play professional basketball. I’m always rooting for the Rocket.

  • grego

    Unfortunately 2/3 of the long range shooters got injured this season. Both at the same time and both have had troubles coming back (Finley is now gone though).

    This definitely has hurt the Spurs 3-point shooting approach. Hill is now the most consistent shooter these days. Mason Jr is definitely the streakiest.

    Spurs are going to struggle if Bonner can’t find his touch again since Mason Jr. just goes in and out of cold spells.

  • TheRealBarackObama

    Bonner is too dimensional to win a championship with. Bogans is too. i understand hes a shrpshooter, hustler etc. whatever, bottom line is, we arent going anywhere in the playoffs. people can post all the stats but that doesnt change the fact he isnt really that good defensively, not saying he doesnt try, but come on. Same with bogans, worthless. The Spurs will probably stay at the 7 spot.

    I like to look at potential Playoff matchups

    I honestly dont believe we have the tools to get that far in the Playoffs. When you look at the Western Conference, who do we really match up well against ?

    Maybe the Jazz and Suns, right Now Dallas looks good, hell the top 4 look good honestly. But who wants a First round matchup with Denver, or possibly LA.

    But thats Ok Cause Matt Bonner will spread the floor, and Bogans is the “bruce bowen” architect.

    Gonna be a be a long offseason Guys

  • zack

    people take these comments badly, look when parker isnt scoring 19 pointshes pretty useless if that hurts your feelings get over it! if bonner isnt scoring the way he needs to be to benefit the team he should be benched until he can produce!! im shocked its almost like pop came on and saw spurs forums, and knew people were furious, and i still am a lil upset but im def. happier /with pops decisions as of late. bonner is a great role player, and when hes hustlingon d i like him out there, but since hes out of rhythm we need him to sit, now if it takes him the rest of the season to get into a rhythm well he should be let go. its simple, and i think pop better take a more aggressive approach on working players into the system, we need to get bigs for gods sake if we dont get any bigs below 35 this summer he should fired yes i said it again hahaha i love the spurs

  • stephen

    Matt was looking good again in N.O., expect to see more of the same on Friday.

  • andy

    i used to camp against bonner, but i’ve come to appreciate his talents as well.

    i’ve balled with several nba players, and to suggest that any of them “suck” (speaking of which, read is to show how far removed one is from the game.

    look, for all those who say bonner’s too one dimensional, do we rail against the minute hand for not telling us the hour? or furthermore for not being a grandfather clock? i have always loved the spurs, but grew to appreciate them in adolescence and adulthood through their unique and precise brand of basketball. bonner’s 3pt shooting (with value added from his hustle) is an extension of that precision. though his minute hand is slightly bent, hopefully he’ll get straightened out in short order. then maybe our grandfather [intended] clock spurs will get clicking in time for the playoffs. go spurs!

  • alamobro

    I am not Pro no Anti Bonner, but Judging from a glance at alot of these recent statistics, Matt is beneficial to the team.

    It seems the anti-Bonner camps main gripe ( weather they realize it or not ) is that Matty is a 6 ft 10 shooting guard who cant do anything but shoot the 3 ball extremely well.

    Well, I guess I too would prefer a 7 ft rebounding bruiser at the 5 slot, but that isnt happening.

  • Paul

    What can man do against such reckless hate?

    Yest, Bon-Bon is a role player.

    For the spurs, the role player is a key position. Our role players have always been key (at least throughout our successes in the last decade). Because much of the offense is based on either pick/roll or feeding Duncan, most of the direct movement is down to a guard and a big. The other players are efficient when they are able to create spacing and knock in shots.

    This is why the Red Rocket works so well on this team, and it is also why RJ struggles.

    We don’t play our best when we have the “most talent” around our best players, we play our best when we have guys that understand their roles around our best players.

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  • Susan Riner

    Well if you look at the game versus the Clippers on Saturday you can see that Bonner is shooting the 3 well again, and can hit a nice jump hook. Nuff said, Bonner is da man!

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