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