The ramifications of Tiago Splitter’s new 4-year, $36-million deal

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Tiago Splitter and the San Antonio Spurs have come to an agreement on a 4-year, $36 million deal, per Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. With the deal — which will presumably be signed on July 10 — Splitter will be the only Spur under contract through the 2016-17 season.

Given how quickly this signing was made official, it’s safe to assume this was a number with which San Antonio was more than comfortable. Woj indicated the Portland Trail Blazers had strongly considered a $9 million offer sheet for Splitter, but that the Spurs were working through a deal of their own on Monday night heading into Tuesday. Essentially, that means when the Spurs heard the $9-million figure, they jumped at it and secured Tiago on their own before allowing the market to dictate his contract. (Or at least once they heard of Portland’s price range.) On a day the soon-to-be 33-year-old David West agreed to a 3-year, $36 million deal to stay with the Pacers, San Antonio’s 28-year-old center shook hands to stay in the River City for a year longer at the same long-term price.

Since no offer sheet was actually signed by the Trail Blazers, apparently, another team could conceivably swoop in and offer Splitter more money before July 9, but for now it appears Splitter will be a Spur for the next four years.

Whether you like it or not, this is the going rate for an above-average NBA big man. As has been discussed ad nauseum, 7-footers (Splitter is officially 6-foot-11) get premium dollars in this league, and the Spurs place a high amount of additional value on the fact that he’s been a part of their system for three years now. Continuity is very important to this franchise, as is cultural blending and systematic fits. The Spurs made it clear they wanted Splitter back, but also knew they had to evaluate the alternatives in case the price tag got too high for their taste. It appears they liked the flavor of this one, though.

The exact details of the contract have yet to be disclosed, so we don’t know whether this deal is front-loaded, back-loaded or flat over the course of the next four years. But for now we’ll just go by the $9-million per year rate as it’s outlined in the preliminary release of the agreement. We’ll also assume for now that Bonner’s contract, which stands at $3.95 million for the next year, will continue to count against the cap. He can’t be waived any longer, and the amnesty provision can’t be exercised until July 10. Furthermore, Manu Ginobili and Gary Neal have yet to be signed, so here we go…

To preface the following, Manu Ginobili’s current cap hold is worth a little more than $19.1 million, and Gary Neal’s is worth roughly $1.1 million. So, in actuality, the Spurs are significantly OVER the cap by roughly $10-plus million at this moment. In order to make things a bit clearer, I eliminated the cap holds in the next couple of paragraphs … so remember the cap space I have outlined is essentially there only for the purposes of re-signing Ginobili and Neal. Cap holds are in place until the player is let go or re-signed, so Manu’s and Gary’s deals must be completed in order for the cap space to become tangible. Hope that makes sense.

With now $9 million committed to Splitter for the 2013-14 season and Ginobili and Neal still waiting for their futures to officially be addressed, the Spurs are sitting at $7-8 million in cap space. Now, that number can change to $11-12 million if San Antonio does decide to amnesty Bonner, but that might not be necessary. (Remember, I removed cap holds from the equation, so that cap space is essentially reserved for Ginobili and Neal only, not another team’s free agent(s).)

Seeing that the Spurs are looking at $7-8 million to spend on Ginobili and Neal without using the amnesty provision on Matty, it’s entirely possible they utilize all their cap space in bringing the entire band back together. If they do stay over the cap by re-signing their own players, they’ll have access to the Mid-Level exception, which they would renounce the rights to if they fall below the salary cap. At this point, that might be the most effective way to use the dollars they have.

But then there’s the other route. If San Antonio wants to amnesty Bonner and reject any offers for Neal, the team would be looking at $11-12 million (keeping Manu’s cap hold in mind) to spend on Ginobili alone. We still have no idea where Manu sits in negotiations with the Spurs, but you’ve got to think the two sides have an idea on a number, or at least the amount of flexibility Ginobili is willing to afford. We’ve used a mark of about $5 million for Manu in the past here at 48 Minutes of Hell, so let’s stick with that.

Let’s say the Spurs and Ginobili agree two a deal worth $5 million annually, while at the same time letting Neal walk and amnestying (is this a word?) Bonner, they would then be left with $6-7 million in actual cap space. That’s not a ton more than the ~$5 million the MLE can offer if they remained over the salary cap, but it could mean the difference in attracting a significant contributor. (If Manu was to take, say, $3 million, then the Spurs would be sitting with $8-9 million in space and would really be in a good spot.) What’s perhaps even more attractive to the Spurs, if they fall far enough below the salary cap to use the room they have in free agency, is the fact they could then renounce their rights to the normal exceptions (Bi-Annual, Mid-Level, etc…) and instead choose to utilize the Room Mid-Level exception. That would give San Antonio an extra ~$2.6 million more to spend on top of the money saved by letting Bonner and Neal go. (Remember, the Room MLE money can’t be added to available cap space to form one contract offer. So if the Spurs have ~$7 million in space, they can’t add the ~$2.6 million to give them ~$9.6 million to spend on one player. It is a completely separate entity. That $2.6 million is the max a team can offer one player when using the exception. Also, the maximum length for this exception is a two-year contract, and teams can split this money to sign more than one player if they’d like.)

So, even with the $9 million now committed to Splitter, the Spurs still have options in front of them with a chance to be hugely productive. Do you bring the entire group back together and utilize the full MLE, or do you maximize cap space and then put the Room MLE to use? We’ll have to wait and see. And while the 4-year, $36-million numbers might look a little intimidating, such is life in the NBA. San Antonio has managed its cap space beautifully, and this kind of contract should not hinder them much, if at all, going forward.

Once Splitter was inserted into the starting lineup alongside Tim Duncan, the Spurs’ defense soared to heights it hadn’t seen since the title-winning days. Now, he has a chance to be a staple in San Antonio as this team moves closer to the next chapter in franchise history.


  • Dr. Who

    With Manu inked, the offseason will go just as expected. Even though there were crazy rumors of Gortat, Ellis and Oden; the FO resigns Tiago and Manu, next resigning Neal and picked up the option on Bonner. They absolutely love Bonner (aka Finley love) and I highly doubt he’ll be gone because after all “he stretches the floor.” ugh… But they could move Bonner later using the expiring contract as the bait for a team trying to clear space. All that’s left to do is get a bit over the cap to get the MLE; use it on another 3pt chucker or backup PG and hope for team improvement in the offseason. I beleive we still will have the LLE too? Strange we really need a backup PG and we have 3 on the roster? Plus if we keep Mcgrady around he’s a point forward, not to mention Manu. Don’t know if Manu will be running much point next year due to all the turnovers though. Time will tell…

  • Dr. Who

    There’s a lot more to how you play than stats. Or else Bonner has been the best Spurs for the last 5 years since his PER has been so high. Look outside the numbers and watch the games. Oh yeah and don’t re-watch the nba finals to get an assement of his market value.

  • ThatBigGuy

    The Heat were a bad matchup for Splitter, which is ok, because he did a lot of high value, heavy lifting in the 95 games leading up to the Finals. His value isn’t in raw numbers, and if you watched the rest of the season, you’d have seen that.

  • ThatBigGuy

    The difference between the 2012 playoff Spurs and the 2013 playoff Spurs was the improvement of 3 players: Duncan, Kawhi, and Splitter. Duncan’s been paid and Kawhi will get paid. But right now, it’s Splitter’s turn to get paid. It was his steady improvement that enabled Pop to make him a starter, which improved the D dramatically. It was his ability in the offensive PnR with Manu that opened up the 3’s for the second team.

    Not only do they retain an above average player with intimate corporate knowledge, they also retain a massively trade-able chip, much like Denver did with Nene. This was a good move, so boringly good.

  • TD BestEVER

    I’m sorry but ANYONE who thinks this is a reasonable $ for Splittter is either crazy or just haven’t watched enough basketball. Splitter improved last year and helped the Spurs get to the Finals…..but so did every other player on the team not named Manu. TD/TP are the reason SA got to the Finals and once there when they needed help Tiago/Manu and others could help out. And now you reward that guy with 9 million, when many other players like like Landry barely make that. And they can score. Look at guys like Verejao who was a top 5 rebounder for 9 million and then you give Splitter that amount. This basically puts all the pressure back on TD/TP to carry the team again as suppose to trying to get the aging BIG2.5 some real help…… SPURS FO are a bunch of lames for this one…..

  • LePass

    those 2 deals will just make spurs mediocre at best next season. I hope some trades are coming to get a strong center who can score and another playmaker.

  • LePass

    scola+gortat for the same money given to splitter? no brainer

  • Dr. Who

    Gortat is already at close to 8MM and is under contract for one more year. So Scola is going to sign for 1MM? How? Would have loved I see Scola here while manu was in his prime. Don’t really have a need for an undersized 4 at this point.

  • Dr. Who

    Or… they’ve seen how much other 7 footers are going for. You seen Jefferson’s deal??? We couldn’t afford that without seriously breaking up the team. Tiago is a bad match up for Miami. Dosnt mean he isn’t a decent big. Just wait till next year when Gortat ups his salary (which is already close to Tiago’s). Woulda been nice to get a stud FA here but we weren’t in the running for Jeff or J. Smith who is looking for a max deal. Tiago has a good contract that is very tradeable. We coulda been stuck overpaying for him whn the teams that missed out on Dwight Coward need to spend their money on a big. Solid moves but not ground breaking or exciting. Dems are our Spurs.. like it or not.

  • WSSNW

    Stop smoking crack.

  • Adam Rendon

    I only have three things to say to you, Tiago…

    Hit the weight-room (hard).

    Hit Timmy. Timmy needs a sparing partner. (go see Timmy and Leija in the boxing-ring this summer)

    Stand up to Pop, or you’ll never gain his full respect (it’s obvious you still come up short).

  • Titletown99030507d

    Yes when you get right down to it, its just him and the rim. That’s what separates Superstars from the up and comers. Sorry but If Kawhi makes that free throw he’s elevated to the brink of superstardom. What a shame he’ll just have to prove himself again next season. Ball don’t lie he missed it and the championship faded away from them. IT is what it is. You can’t blame no one else. He makes that shot and the one rebound is a moot point. Free throws mattered. And it mattered for those two tries. And you and I wouldn’t be here going back and forth, we’d be wearing our championship hats. I would have loved to see Tiago have a crack at those two free throws.

  • Titletown99030507d

    We wouldn’t have made it to the finals without Splitter. The Grizz would have ousted us again. That just proved he has improved and has more room to improve if only Pop doesn’t mess his minutes and his mind by sitting him just to satisfy his funky experiments. The money is right you just can’t admit your wrong. Your fantasy players cost way too much for this club.

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