Tiago Splitter and the dust on your boxscore

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Fabricio Oberto’s retirement gave Spurs fans an opportunity to voice appreciation for a basketball player who made his career by simply “knowing how to play.”  Tiago Splitter possesses more raw talent than Fabricio Oberto, but it’s his intuitive, Oberto-like feel for the game that makes him a meaningful player for the Spurs.

Splitter is also a perfect case study for re-imagining the usefulness of the traditional box score.

A few weeks back, after the Wizards at Pistons preseason tilt, Detroit’s locker room white board was littered with the dry erase debris of halftime. The white board was divided in two down the middle. One half of the whiteboard was a scribblelogue of Xs and Os and the other half had two competing columns of stats: “reb”, “fb pts”, “to”, “def” and “ofd”.

The stealthy basketball gumshoe in me assumed the shorthand: rebounds, fast break points, turnovers, deflections and offensive fouls drawn. I didn’t confirm whether the last of these stats matched my guess work, but I did ask Ike Diogu, then with the Pistons,  if coaches commonly tracked deflections. He was obviously bored by my question, but he did confirm my deflection hunch with a ho-hum, “Yeah, it’s common, it’s something the coaches want to see.”

I suspect every team in the league tracks deflections and offensive fouls drawn, and that they’ve done this for a long time. These stats are, many would argue, more reliable defensive metrics than steals and blocks. But it makes one wonder why the NBA does not include these two simple stats within official box scores?

My desire for the NBA to make such information available has little to do with a lust for numbers. Rather, it’s a desire that the NBA do a better job of helping its fans appreciate well-played basketball. Some of the league’s most remarkable-at-what-they-do players are completely ignored by the box score. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is as good at defending the basketball as Monta Ellis is scoring it; Anderson Varejao would step in front of a freight train to draw a charge. Neither of these players gets the attention their peculiar area of dominance deserves.

In last Wednesday’s win against Phoenix, the tandem of Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan bottled up the Suns’ pick and roll with a terrific defensive stint that bridged the middle of the fourth quarter. This, in combination with Richard Jefferson’s three point barrage, turned the game for the Spurs. Splitter finished the game with three offensive fouls drawn, and one of Jefferson’s fast break three pointers came after Splitter deflected an attempted pass into the lane. Tony Parker was credited with the steal, but it was Tiago Splitter’s defensive play, if you follow.

Tiago Splitter is terrific basketball player, but you’d have trouble proving it from a box score. During last night’s win over the Clippers, Splitter drew a charge, two loose ball fouls (frustration fouls due to his superior rebounding position), and had three blocks. More importantly, his rotations were clean, he showed agility and smarts against the pick and roll, and his man defense against Blake Griffin was incredibly good, whether Griffin received the ball on the block or faced up from 15 feet.

Tiago Splitter will finish the season one of the best defensive big men in basketball, and only a precious few will notice.  It’s a shame.

  • rob

    Receiving notice from only a precious few is alright by me. If Splitter proves to be as good as you are speculating in this well written post…all that matters is his play and helping the Spurs win games as well as having that type of player on the team for the playoffs.

    I doubt we see Splitter used to his full potential this year. And if the team can win games even with Splitter being used conservatively…the future of the Spurs without Tim Duncan doesn’t look so bleak.

  • rob

    Speaking of Mbah a Moute. I had posted in August that the Spurs should try and get this guy. I tried to pull up the espn saved trade but I think it’s been exspelled from their files.

    The premise I had back in August is that the Bucks were short on PG’s which the Spurs had plenty with Parker, Hill, Temple and Jerrells.

    Jerrells is gone but Quinn has been added. So I wonder if this would be a likely scenario?

    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=29kg9f6

    I’m not sure what the situation is with Temple…but he is the type of player (at least he was until his injury in summer league) that could benefit the Bucks depleted/ineffective pg situation.

  • Bryan

    Nice write-up, Tim. After watching the game last night, I was thinking how good Tiago looked. But like you said, looking at the box score doesn’t tell the story. And if trying to explain to somebody after the game why he played so well, my answer probably would have just been, “he understands the game. He knows where to be.” But only true fans would appreciate that kind of statement. Thanks for putting some concrete observations to Tiago’s play. I think Pop is bringing him along nicely.

    When Bonner comes back, do we think Pop is going to scale back his minutes? Does he scale back McDyess’s minutes? I’m a little worried.

  • rj

    loving the optimism, rob. b-griff was non exsitent last night when tiago covered him. i would like to see the spurs go to him on the block once or twice a game. i’m glad splitter had a block on griffin ln national television. i was concerned about our lack of shot blockin, but looks like tiago can provide rejections along with timmy on a nightly basis. we are winning on talent alone right now. can’t wait till we really start to gel.

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  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Timothy Varner

    When Bonner returns, Blair is in danger of not playing. Dice and Splitter are playing too well. Duncan is indispensable. And what Bonner does well, he does well. Bonner is a perfect 4th or 5th at 12 to 15 minutes a game, and, although I hate to say it, at this point he is a better defender than DeJuan Blair.

    Blair’s saving grace will be the ages of Duncan and Dice. Pop should let Blair play through his funk and give Duncan and/or Dice back to backs off. That’s also a good way to spoon feed Splitter once his lungs are with him.

  • http://www.bpifanconnect.com Alix Babaie

    I remember that draft night of 2007 when the Spurs made the announcement of their 28th pick being Tiago Splitter. I was so geeked up that he was there because he was a projected lower half lottery pick (much like Mr. Anderson was projected to be this year but due to his hamstring being an issue, the Spurs had the good fortune of having him slip to us)….I felt like he was an absolute steal! He was supposed to come out in 2006 and was projected to be a lotto talent then too but pulled his name out of the draft. The biggest concern to all the teams who didn’t choose him in 2007 was his ability to be signed. It just seems that the Spurs do their homework above and beyond most NBA teams, it is so refreshing to see the results of their due diligence. I know that they will never live down the Scola loss in the eyes of some but you have to tip your hat to the efforts of this Spurs scouting staff and RC just has a knack for working with those guys to find the diamond that other NBA teams deem a lump of coal. Plus, how many people wanted RJ’s ass out with his performance last season? So many forget that in this Spurs system, generally it takes a player a season to mesh…I mean, this is almost ALWAYS the case! Thank God that Pop had the gumption – despite public scrutiny – to give RJ a new deal, with less money but also less pressure to be “The Guy” next to Timmy and then on top of that, actually spend the summer COACHING his SF to the point that you see the results of that mutal respect and effort. God damn, it just makes you proud to be a Spurs fan and see that this organization does things the right way. I think that the rest of the NBA needs to be worried once the Spurs put it all together and crank up that defense. Tiago is without question the most skilled big man to play next to Timmy since David. With the 2 bigs anchoring our D, RJ seems to be improving his D along with the 20 point games he keeps bringing to the table. You know what you will get from Manu and Timmy but I am also pleased with the assist numbers in addition to the scoring that TP is putting on the box score. All of this, along with a stout bench and the Grizzly Blair, gives me optimism that this team can dump the Lakers in the WCF and we could very well see NBA Title #5 happen for this franchise. This season is definitely going to be fun to watch.

  • spursfanbayarea

    @rob
    Luc is a solid nba starter with great defense. Even though he is lacking offensive skills, he could start on most teams due to his defense. Garrett temple is a third string guard. Unfortunately that trade wouldn’t go through. We would have to give up someone of hill or blair quality to get him in return. I wish we could dupe the bucks into doing your trade, it would be a great steal.

  • td4life

    Tiago played great, it was fun to watch. I am so comfortable watching Neal and Anderson that I would give them more minutes even though Manu and RJ are playing fantastic, but I have a ton of confidence in those rooks… but Tiago is perhaps the biggest key to our season. As his conditioning goes up, I expect him to be our number 2 big in terms of mpg, because we need to get into a position to rest McD through the long season.

    There were a couple of brief flashes of DB looking good cleaning up the glass, but then he started getting some whistles, and even struggled to get his shots near the basket to fall. Last year, he would get his own misses as often as needed until it went in. With his shots not falling, we are not looking for him on offense. I’d rather look for him once or twice late in the first or so, to keep giving him chances, but following our first two game losing streak, I think he may have to use him as a glass cleaner down low, if he starts killing it on putbacks, take advantage of his confidence ask him to slide back out and fire a jumper or two. But he still looks SO much better in the paint.

    Tiago is a difference maker this season.

  • td4life

    We need it! Pau Gasol is the MVP of the league right now.

  • Tyler

    When Tiago was guarding Griffin, Blake couldn’t back him down; he couldn’t even move him. After years of really physical play in Europe, his positional defense is going to be a real asset to this team.

    Outside of TD last year, we didn’t have a big who could defend 1 vs. 1 in the post against the likes of Bynum, Gasol, Al Jefferson, Howard, etc. My hope is Tiago can be the second post defender, similar to Nazr and Rasho from years past, both of which were highly underrated factors in the Spurs’ success.

  • http://www.operaforthemasses.com David G

    I agree with Tim. After watching the past couple of games I’ve been wondering when Bonner get’s back will Blair even get to play?

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Timothy Varner

    Well, we all know Blair is much better than he’s playing. It’s just the timing of his slump that makes things appear worse than they are. George Hill is not playing well right now, either.

    This Spurs team is not far from legit contender status–we’ll know more at the end of the month, after they’ve played a more difficult schedule. The

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Lenneezz

    Speaking of guarding Griffin…

    DeJuan got smoked by Blake when guarding him 1 on 1. He went right by Blair to his left. It’s odd, Blair seems to be able to handle taller, slower guys better.

    I understand that it was just one example and Blake Griffin is one of the fastest bigs in the league. Still, DeJuan needs to step up his game.

  • rob

    spursfanbayarea

    “We would have to give up someone of hill or blair quality to get him in return.”

    I would do that. Don’t know if the Spurs would.

    Mbah has been on my radar for quite some time. You got to love the tenacity this guy plays on D. He can guard 2′s, 3′s and in certain instances 4′s.

    Giving up Hill or Blair might be an unpopular decision from most fans point of view…but I think they would soon forget their allegiance to either of those players once Mbah started playing for the Spurs. And he’s not a bad situational scorer.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Thanks for a nice feature, Tim, and for the comments from all of you.

    I haven’t yet had a chance to catch this game, so I was pleased with all the comments about Tiago’s matchup with Blake Griffin. All summer long I remember NBA analysts saying that Splitter’s biggest adjustment would be defending the stronger, more athletic players in the NBA. Blake Griffin is pretty green right now so he’s not necessarily using his athleticism as effectively as someone like Dwight Howard does, although he does have more of an indoctrination into professional play than your average rookie. But still, he seems like exactly the kind of player everyone thought Tiago would have trouble defending. But from all the comments, it sounds like he defended him quite well.

  • Soma Spur

    I went to Tiago’s first game in LA vs the clips a week ago. Griff schooled him on a couple of moves including a sick spin move for a dunk.

    Not last night…

    Tiago looked great on the defensive end. So much improvement in just a week – can’t wait to see how he looks in a month or come playoff time.

  • The Watcher

    I saw his defensive style in the Suns game. He can read plays and knows where to position to take the charge. That is a trait of a good defensive player. The kid knows his game.

  • john

    is there a way to monitor opposing FG% when tiago is on the court? i think he was one of the spurs leaders last night and i think he would become a top 3 player for the season. i absolutely loved his defense and mobility.

    i hope he can play 16-18 minutes in the next 3 games; then 20 min/game in the next 10-15 games and then average about 25 min/game for the rest of the season. this way, mcdyess and splitter would play about 48 min/game through the play-offs, duncan would play 30-33 and blair/bonner would play the rest plus any garbage time in blow-offs.

    any thoughts on playing time once all are healthy?

  • grego

    I think if you reduce Blair’s minutes and balance out Tim and Dyess’ minutes, there’ll still be time with him on the floor. Hopefully they can keep him in only when matchups are favorable as Splitter earns more time.

    Even if Duncan and Dice don’t get nights off, they could at the very least take 5-10 minutes less in the game. That will go a long way.

  • SAJKinBigD

    I’d be willing to bet hard cash that Duncan doesn’t play in the Philly game, given his flu-like and the fact they play OKC the following night.

  • Destry White

    Splitter IS a beast! He makes Blair tradeable. Pop needs to give him much more playing time and then the traditional boxscore will fill out more. More importantly though, we won’t let the Pacers score 109 point on us and the Suns 110….

  • jwalt

    Perfect analysis of the big men’s PT. Splitter’s will go up, Blair’s will go down, Bonner, with all his faults, has to play. He stretches the floor for everyone else.

    Splitter has looked better every game. Time to take the training wheels off and give him at least 24-26 minutes a game.

    Right now Blair is the worst player in the rotation, and by a lot. Look at the +/- from last night, he was -14 while Splitter was +10.

  • jwalt

    And I was hoping the Spurs would draft Mbah a’ Moute out of UCLA, I thought he had Bruce Bowen written all over him, and still do. But we’d have to give Milwaukee a lot to get him, Skiles knows how valuable he is. Wishful thinking, I’m afraid.

  • Jim Henderson

    From the main post:

    “Tiago Splitter possesses more raw talent than Fabricio Oberto, but it’s his intuitive, Oberto-like feel for the game that makes him a meaningful player for the Spurs.”

    True, but Fab was playing with a 29 year old Duncan, not a post-knee injury 34 year old TD. It’s quite likely that today’s Duncan, and the average at best speed of Splitter will present match-up problems with many of the opposing 4/5′s out on the perimeter (pretty much anything outside the lane).

    “Tiago Splitter will finish the season one of the best defensive big men in basketball….”

    That’s a “very” optimistic statement. I hope that you’re right, but I have my doubts. “Maybe” in year 2 or 3. But that’s still a “big” maybe at this point.

    Timothy Varner
    November 11th, 2010 at 7:44 am

    “When Bonner returns, Blair is in danger of not playing.”

    Now that would be really foolish. I don’t think Pop has that much of a “man-crush” on Bonner.

    “And what Bonner does well, he does well.”

    With the addition of Neal & Anderson, and the renaissance of RJ, what Bonner does well we don’t need.

    “…..at this point he is a better defender than DeJuan Blair.”

    Bonner won’t be improving in this regard, Blair will be. Also, even with Blair’s EARLY struggles, Bonner does not hold a candle to Blair in one key category: REBOUNDING.

    Tyler
    November 11th, 2010 at 9:06 am

    “When Tiago was guarding Griffin, Blake couldn’t back him down; he couldn’t even move him.”

    That’s true. Tiago does well in the low post. Five years of professional ball has paid off in that regard. But Griffin is far from an NBA-level established player on offense in the low-post. And Tiago will get toasted by Griffin out on the perimeter. Not even close to having the speed to handle that. We were just fortunate that Griffin had an all around off game last night, as most even very good rookies have from time-to-time.

    Lenneezz
    November 11th, 2010 at 9:22 am

    “DeJuan got smoked by Blake when guarding him 1 on 1. He went right by Blair to his left.”

    Not to tell you something you don’t already know, but Griffin has been, and will continue to do the same to most PF’s around the league this season. He’s just that explosive. In fact when he gets a dependable mid-range jumper he’ll be virtually impossible to stop. We can’t adequately evaluate Blair’s defense from the play you just described. In fact every 4/5 on our team is subject to getting absolutely toasted by Griffin on that very same type of play.

    “Still, DeJuan needs to step up his game.”

    Every one knows that, but isn’t it counter-productive for this blog to reiterate it ad nauseam every day? Obviously the immediate expectations are way out of wack for this kid.

    For example, the main post talks in glowing terms about the intangibles of Splitter (fine, I like Splitter too). How about the intangibles for Blair? And believe me there’s plenty to write an article about there, even though he’s just 21, in just his 2nd season of professional ball, and struggling early on, while Tiago is 25 and in his 6th professional season. We need to stop harping on Blair to meet our own individualized expectations, whether that is wishing that he was playing more like last year, or that he should live out OUR dreams for him on OUR time-table. We need to start recognizing the non-box score good that DeJuan brings to this team. Blair will become a very good player in this league on his own time-table, and I take solace in the fact that Pop understands that, and will do the best to help him, and the team, for both this year and beyond. The reason we lost our only game this season, and the reason we will lose again is because we don’t defend well-enough as a “team”, particularly on the perimeter. It is, and won’t be, because of Blair.

    rob
    November 11th, 2010 at 9:24 am

    “Giving up Hill or Blair might be an unpopular decision from most fans point of view…but I think they would soon forget their allegiance to either of those players once Mbah started playing for the Spurs. And he’s not a bad situational scorer.”

    He is a very good defender (although I don’t agree with Tim’s, Monta Ellis analogy — too extreme for me), but he does not have the overall potential of Blair. I would not trade Blair for Moute, and besides, Moute, even though he could help fill a need, would not be enough to put us over the top anyways. Our problems (as a “true” title contender) are deeper than just one very good perimeter defender.

    Tim in Surrey
    November 11th, 2010 at 9:45 am

    “But still, he seems like exactly the kind of player everyone thought Tiago would have trouble defending. But from all the comments, it sounds like he defended him quite well.”

    Tim, he guarded Griffin for about 5-10 minutes on a night when Blake had one of those “rookie off nights”. People on here mainly point to one play, when Splitter had Griffin pinned “just” off the left low-block and play solid position defense on him (that’s great, but not unexpected – after all, that’s always been known to be Tiago’s strength). Even old man McDyess had a block on Griffin off the right-side low-block in that game last night.

    Right now Griffin’s strength is his explosiveness off the dribble in a motion or transition offense. Tiago did not have the pleasure of encountering those types of situations with Griffin during his “off” night last night. We simply cannot take away too much from this game, including Splitter’s defense, against an utterly dilapidated Clipper team on the road.

    john
    November 11th, 2010 at 11:14 am

    “any thoughts on playing time once all are healthy?”

    Yeah, I wouldn’t be too quick to relegate Blair to also-ran status.

  • Jim Henderson

    Destry White
    November 11th, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    “Splitter IS a beast! He makes Blair tradeable.”

    A one-word description for that: delusional.

    jwalt
    November 11th, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    “Perfect analysis of the big men’s PT. Splitter’s will go up, Blair’s will go down, Bonner, with all his faults, has to play. He stretches the floor for everyone else.”

    In case you haven’t noticed, we have plenty of people to stretch the floor. We don’t need Bonner to get many minutes, and certainly not Blair’s minutes. Or, maybe you guys have forgotten how invaluable rebounding is. Blair is a much better rebounder than Bonner or Splitter. He was a better rebounder than McDyess last year, and still has the ability to be better than him this year (McDyess is thus far out-performing, and he simply cannot keep up that pace). He also even has the potential to be as good of a rebounder as Duncan someday.

    “Right now Blair is the worst player in the rotation, and by a lot. Look at the +/- from last night, he was -14 while Splitter was +10.”

    You’re going to pull out of your butt for ONE GAME +/- stats (a pretty dumb stat to put much weight in any way) to help you draw conclusions about playing time? If you’re attempting to make a serious point could you at least try to make it credible?

  • Daniel T

    I’m really beginning to wonder if the name of Blair’s agent is Jim Henderson?

  • http://www.yahoo.com TITO

    who remembers my post?? I posted that Gary Neal is force to be reckon with way before the season started. Gary Neal is not an ordinary player he Kicks a??s he reminds of Kevin durant Im glad he will be getting more minutes he is better than george hill

  • http://www.yahoo.com TITO

    Dejuan Blair is a hell of a player and a good rebounder and defensive player we dont need him to score we have timmy jefferson neal parker ginobli

  • http://www.yahoo.com TITO

    Parker is assists is tremendous thank you spurs for signing him and for all you blair haters the reason the spurs are winning is because blair does his part with his defensive efforts i cant wait when blair become the beast again around mid season Blair is another xavier Mcdaniel or CHarles Barkley

  • SpursfanSteve

    That was well said about Blair, Jim. He’s a smart, young player. If we relegate him back to the bench or out of the rotation now, he’s not going to get the repititions necessary to improve. The fastest way to improve is to play against the best you can. You get beat by them, sure, but Pop showing confidence in Blair is going to pay off in the end. Blair is getting the opportunity to learn by experience. The truth is, we dont *need* him to put up the numbers he did last year at the moment. So far, we’ve been able to win in spite of Blair (and others), and Blair is learning valuable lessons. He needs to continue to get the opportunity. Furthermore, Splitter brings balance to the bench. Do we really want to see Blair/Bonner as our second string frontcourt? That is not enough defense.

    Personally, just to add to that, I think Blair improving enough to play starter caliber on both offense and defense is more important than getting Splitter to that level, because I think with some conditioning that Splitter will more or less be there. As far as 4/5′s with lateral quickness that will burn Splitter, I can’t think of many outside of Lewis in Orlando and maybe Odom for the Lakers. I dont think Splitter is THAT much slower than a Lamarcus Aldridge. Some of the speedier ones might have a slight advantage, but I think Splitter’s intelligence and length will be enough to compensate for that. Unless Mcdyess can play like he has so far from round 1 of the playoffs onward, then Blair’s improvement is going to be the make-or-break for our being contenders. I think against the Lakers (yes i know i’m looking too far ahead), Duncan/Gasol and Splitter-Blair/Bynum-Odom are going to cancel each other out.

    On another note:
    The Mavs are still a team of jump shooters.
    The Suns lost too much firepower, and are no longer as much of a matchup nightmare as last season.
    The Hornets still dont have enough firepower.
    The Trailblazers will *still* be contending with major injuries.
    Houston might not even make the playoffs.

    Oklahoma City and the Lakers are the two biggest opponents in the west. If our defense improves even slightly by the end of the season, i think we can still take the Thunder.

    While I know it is early in the season, with Splitter’s strong positional defense, I think it may actually turn out to be enough to put us over the top. I dont think the Lakers have the quickness to beat us off the pick and roll (it’s not their strength). I think our starting 5′s pretty well cancel each other out (especially with Tony playing so well), so it comes down to our bench. If i had to judge right now, I’d certainly say our bench has the edge, even when they get Bynum back, whether he or Odom come off the bench, I like our odds.

  • zack in the alamo

    this is exactly what the stats need, but in a way its what separates fans who understand the game from the rest and it keeps these type of players a secret in a sense. nice write ive been preaching tiago since we drafted him and he will be a huge part of this team for many many years to come! after allstar break i see him doing really well

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Lenneezz

    “How about the intangibles for Blair? And believe me there’s plenty to write an article about there”

    I’m not advocating giving up on Blair or having unrealistic expectations. But, when he plays the worst defensive against Griff of any big on the team, it’s worth noting. Blair should be quicker than Dice and Tiago and he wasn’t last night. I’m not betraying him or the team by saying that.

    DeJuan has to play better position defensive against other teams bigs. Now, I did say that Blake is one of the fastest bigs in the world. However, that is Blair’s defensive style. Because he’s short, he has to play better position defense. Simple as that.

    I’m not saying that he should get banished to the bench and get mop up minutes. I was just noting a short coming in DeJuan’s game and how absolutely imperative it is that he get better at it.

  • Jim Henderson

    SpursfanSteve
    November 11th, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks, Steve. You make some very astute observations about Blair. Nice job.

    On Splitter, I’m more reticent (not sold) on his ability to defend the more athletic 4/5′s out on the perimeter than you are, especially those that have a nice mid-range jumper. I think he (or TD) would have some difficulty with all of the following potential match-ups primarily because of a lack of quickness: Bosh, Noah, Odom, Gasol, Aldridge, Griffin, Lewis, Howard, Stoudemire, Horford, Smith, Blatche, Green, Landry, and maybe a couple more that I overlooked. That’s quite a few teams and opponents to just shrug off.

    Also, while more capable than last year, I don’t feel that our front line cancels out with the Laker’s front line, and I don’t think our bench is better, mainly because of a lack of experience.

    As far as your WC assessment, just remember it’s way to early to form any conclusions about who’s going to emerge out West. I also think that you’re entirely too sanguine about the Spurs, especially as it relates to our defense, which is “entirely” inadequate to contend with the elite teams in the league right now.

    Lenneezz
    November 11th, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    “Blair should be quicker than Dice and Tiago and he wasn’t last night. I’m not betraying him or the team by saying that.”

    Yes, but it’s not particularly relevant. Every “big” on our team is subject to getting caught off guard in the open court by Griffin’s explosiveness. And no, I would never say that you’re betraying the team for that comment, and my comments in this regard were really about the entire blog right now, with this sort of “open season” atmosphere on a 21 year old player that’s in the midst of a significant funk. I just don’t find it at all appealing, this somewhat relentless nature of harping on a guy while he’s down, regardless of the intentions. Let’s hope the atmosphere is different with the team, and that they’re looking to create an environment whereby Blair’s infectious grin will reappear. Blair is a bloody beast with a smile on his face, and we should all be doing our part to bring that expression of joy out of hibernation, not keeping it in its cave for fear of darts and arrows.

    “Because he’s short, he has to play better position defense. Simple as that.”

    No argument there. He will in due time. I’d just prefer we all spend a little more time critiquing the instances of poor position defense from our veterans out on the perimeter, rather than a 21 year old, undersized low-post defender. That’s a more relevant topic-matter in my view.

  • Greyberger

    Re: the validity of using +/- from one game (or many) to measure a player’s contribution,

    on-court off-court data like +/- is just another way at looking at (more or less) the same information that’s in the box score. Raw +/- is often talked about like it’s always cloudy or misleading by nature. If there’s anything to that it’s because game totals add up all the player’s stints from that game, so when compared to other information in the box score it is more nuanced.

    Instead of looking at game totals, look at +/- numbers by stint – the kind of thing you can do with the gameflows at popcornmachine.net. You can see for yourself the context of +/- data – Who they were playing with, who they were playing against, and the statistics recorded in the time the player was on the court. This is just a convenient way to gather information (+/-, lineup details, and box score stats) that allows you to say things like “Clips outscored Spurs by 10 when Blair was on the court, but this is why”.

  • http://www.sanantoniospurs.com SPURS FAN SINCE 89

    I hope Timmy has taken Splitter under his wing. Well my biggest question that I’ve been pondering over the last few days has been….
    With a very possible lockout next season, almost certain, and everyone in the Spurs organization talking about this is the last run for the big 3; why don’t we put all our chips in for this season then? Lets give Splitter some more minutes, we could sure use him on the defensive end. I know that is a long time away though. If Nando De Colo is already signed then let’s bring him up. If Bonner doesn’t produce when he comes back from the disabeled list lets cut him or try to trade him for someone. We also need to start holding teams to under 90 points again if we want to contend for another championship. Maybe bring in another defensive big that can bang. I like what our bench has been doing, and starting 5 (especially RJ) I’m just not 100% convinced in our defense yet. To me it looks like New Orleans has been playing the best defense that’s why they’re 7-0. Hopefully our young players and veterans can buy into Pops defensive scheme. Once we actually start playing some contending teams, and beating them, then we can see what we need to work on. Definetley defense though. Just saying
    BEAT L.A.

  • Jim Henderson

    Greyberger
    November 11th, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Yeah, I understand that there’s more nuanced ways to look at +/- that can be something useful to look in certain contexts as a part of overall data analysis. I do contend that in general it’s not the most important thing to look at when determining who your line-up should be from game to game. I downplayed the value of +/- mainly as a result of the context and simplicity in which it was used in the comment by jwalt. It is entirely without credibility to look at “base” +/- for players in just the 7th game of the season and make comments like, as jwalt did, “Right now Blair is the worst player in the rotation, and by a lot. Look at the +/- from last night, he was -14 while Splitter was +10.”

    For example, Splitter was -11 in game #5, and Blair was +13. Also, through the first 6 games, Blair was +12, and McDyess was -6.

    So what does all that tell you? Not a whole hell of a lot.

  • Jim Henderson

    Daniel T
    November 11th, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    I’m really beginning to wonder if the name of Blair’s agent is Jim Henderson?

    He apparently needs one on this blog at this point, and I’m happy to do it. So how did I do? Should DeJuan hire me?

  • DieHardSpur

    Did yall not watch the same game I did?

    Blair was very efficient guarding Griffin…

    Is it just me – or is Tiago TWICE the size of Griffin?

    They were standing on the block waiting for a free throw to be shot and Splitter dwarfed him. Tiago has a huge frame…

  • Greyberger

    Re: Jim, it wouldn’t take much digging to find a convincing explanation for the examples cited.

    Splitter ended up -11 in the Rockets game: He only had two stints, one at the end of the 1st/start of the 2nd and one at the end of the third/start of the fourth. In the first stint (with Tony/RJ/Dice/Hill, vs. Houston starters) the teams were evenly matched. In stint #2 (With Manu/Dice/Neal/Hill, vs. Houston bench) the Spurs got destroyed (bled 10 points in 4:27).

    The fact that Blair was +12 through 6 games and Dice was -6 just tells me our bench has not been as productive as last year and that, on average, the Tim-Blair-starters group has done well.

    +/- can certainly be frustrating, whether you’re trying to tease information out of it yourself or listening to someone misusing it. When espn put it in the box scores for individuals, it might have actually caused a step backwards in understanding and appreciation of the stat. I think it has a lot of value though, if you’re willing to unpack it and be careful with your assumptions.

  • Tim in Surrey

    @DieHardSpur – Well I finally got around to watching film of the Clippers game and I agree. I thought both played Griffin very well. However, there were a couple of stops by Tiago where I thought that if Griffin had more confidence in taking 15-footers, he would’ve scored easily. Neither was overmatched by him but both struggled with Craig Smith, who knows all the tricks. I think that’s partly down to their youth and partly down to Griffin’s.

    The interesting thing was that the TEAM played better with Splitter on the floor. That could be because of some little things that I noticed: He sets much crisper screens and rolls better off of them, too. Also, Blair seems rather flat-footed on defense unless his man is posting up or has the ball. I think that both of those are due partly to youth and partly to confusion by Blair. Although Tiago is newer to the system, Blair is still much newer to this level of focus and execution. Those are areas that can certainly be improved.

    In general, I thought both were effective interior defenders. Tiago’s longer but Blair had more than enough length to handle Griffin and Jordan. The one part of this debate that keeps getting overlooked is that the team plays much better still with McDyess on the floor. When he’s out there, the defense and the offense run much more smoothly and quickly.

    This was my first time to really go over a game and it surprised me: I thought the Spurs’ defense actually looked pretty good overall, and it was their offense that really looked out of sync. There were some defensive breakdowns, but nothing that won’t be fixed by April, and the youngsters will be much more effective by then. The offense, however, was very chaotic at times but when they put it together for a couple of stretches they looked really good. Jefferson is going to make an absolutely enormous difference later in the year if he keeps playing this way because he will repeatedly punish anyone who helps. It was very encouraging.

  • Jim Henderson

    Greyberger
    November 12th, 2010 at 10:09 am

    My main point of mentioning +/- was to critique the way in which it was used in the jwalt example. I did not raise it in any way to suggest that the measure had NO value, nor did I intend to have an esoteric discussion on the measures’ inherent merits.

    “Splitter ended up -11 in the Rockets game: He only had two stints, one at the end of the 1st/start of the 2nd and one at the end of the third/start of the fourth. In the first stint (with Tony/RJ/Dice/Hill, vs. Houston starters) the teams were evenly matched. In stint #2 (With Manu/Dice/Neal/Hill, vs. Houston bench) the Spurs got destroyed (bled 10 points in 4:27).”

    Fine, but does that tell you anything about whether or not Splitter should be in the starting line-up? No, it does not. And as I said, I’m not saying that +/- stats have NO useful purpose, but certainly not in the context in which they were used by jwalt. With a large enough sample size, and looking at sophisticated enough data sets, +/- can for example tell you which line-up combination’s appear to be relatively effective in a given situation, and which do not. But I agree, the whole concept of +/- is often greatly misused and misunderstood. It is too often utterly rejected as useless, and perhaps just as frequently used to draw conclusions that the measure is simply unable to credibly support.

    “The fact that Blair was +12 through 6 games and Dice was -6 just tells me our bench has not been as productive as last year and that, on average, the Tim-Blair-starters group has done well.”

    Okay, well, after SEVEN games Blair is a -2, and McDyess is a +4. What does that tell you? Not much, in my view, and certainly cannot be used to provide a determining factor as to who should start, and what their minute allocations should be, all of which are things that jwalt wanted to infer from the game six +/-.

  • rob

    I think the per game +/- is one of the most useless stats to go by.

  • Jim Henderson

    Tim in Surrey
    November 12th, 2010 at 10:39 am

    I think we must have seen a different game. None of our bigs have the ability to shut Griffin down much. In the first game against us he was 7 for 13, 17 points and 8 rebounds, and the kid does not even have a dependable jumper yet in the least. In the most recent game he was without his all-star center next to him, Kaman, had essentially a 2nd unit as his running mates, and he mainly just had an off game as all rookies experience from time to time. And as for our “D”, it sucked. POOR close outs on three point shooters (a season-long problem – LAST in the league at .426!), as the Clips went 7-10 from behind the arc, and we were also a -4 in points given up in the paint against a Clipper team without Davis, Gordon, & Kaman, and playing with 3 rookies in their top 7 players. Our defense right now has no prayer against any of the elite teams. So unless we’re completely “playing to our competition”, and are able to just turn on a defensive switch at a moment’s notice, we’re going to be in trouble by next week.

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Lenneezz

    “I think we must have seen a different game.”

    Yep, I guess different people see different things but I think the overall defense has some issues. Blair got beat by Griff a couple times and it was so blatently obvious that Pop had to pull Blair. Blair couldn’t keep Griff in front of him. Tiago fared better vs Griff but he got lost vs the PNR a few times. In addition to the fine points Jim made about our defense, it’s clear that the Spurs “D” has alot of work to do.

    It is possible that we’re playing down to our competition. A veteran group like the Spurs isn’t interested in “keeping the pedal to the metal” and blowing out teams, especially this early in the season. We will get a clue shortly as OKC will provide a test.

  • viper160

    Your observations about the defensive efforts by players and receiving little or no credit is well founded. Lets face it the NBA marketing team like high flying, fast paced offensive games. Defense minded teams are not pretty to watch because they clamp down on the offensive team and show them to be one-dimensional. Phoenix and Dallas have had high scoring teams but because of their lack of team defense they could not make it to platform and be able to raise the trophy. Fabricio Oberto should be recognized for the things he did-he did the things that everyone takes for granted-setting picks, crashing the boards, clogging up the middle and making offensive players work to earn their points. Do these stats show up on box scores-NO! Tiago Splitter is the Spurs latest blue-collar big man. It is my hope that Spurs fans will afford Tiago the time to develop his NBA game. Tiago is not going to be David Robinson or Tim Duncan he is going to be more of a Robert Parish. He has offensive skills but we should not expect him to score 20+ points a night. Tiago is going to eventually become a consistent 14+ points a night player and 11+ rebounds and 1 block a night player. His defensive spacing, setting picks, passes for scores and rebounding should be tracked it is these little things that will define Taigo’s career. Tiago is the next Spurs big who will simply go out each night and do the things that contribute to team success.

  • viper160

    It would seem that the consensus is that the Spurs defense is highly suspect. The fact DeJuan is having trouble guarding players with some size to them should not come as any surprise to anyone. Last year when the Spurs played against Lakers Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol both consistently shot the ball over DeJuan so when you think about it what exactly does DeJuan bring to defensive table? DeJuan is already at a disadvantage height wise because he is not going to grow so we have a 6 foot 5 guy attempting to guard players bigger and more athletic than him. Then when you figure in the fact that DeJuan’s offensive tools are limited to put back baskets – one has to wonder when it will occur to DeJuan that maybe just maybe I need a 17 foot outside shot so I can force the defense to come out on me. When DeJuan is on the floor he allows the defense to collapse on Tim, Antonio or Tiago since the defense knows that he cannot make a jump shot if his life depended on it. DeJuan needs to seriously look at his player development chart and look at the line that says develop a jump shot off the dribble. If Bruce Bowen could develop a mid-range shot, then there is no reason that DeJuan should not be working on it. Otherwise DeJuan’s days with the Spurs will be numbered.

  • Tyler

    @viper160

    Dejuan put in a lot of work over the summer including on his jumper. Be patient, he’s not going to become a knock-down jump shooter over night. It’s going to take more than one summer. Even Bruce Bowen didn’t develop a reliable 3pt shot till his late 20′s.

    And even through 7 games, the fact that Blair has the confidence to attempt a few jumpers and the fact Pop hasn’t yanked him for doing so, tells me the team has the confidence in him.

  • Jim Henderson

    viper160
    November 12th, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    “Tiago is not going to be David Robinson or Tim Duncan he is going to be more of a Robert Parish. He has offensive skills but we should not expect him to score 20+ points a night. Tiago is going to eventually become a consistent 14+ points a night player and 11+ rebounds and 1 block a night player.”

    First of all, Splitter is not going to be any Robert Parish. If we’re fortunate, he’ll be as good or slightly better than Anderson Varejao. Your point and rebound estimates, even for his 4 peak years, will very likely be too high. I’d be very happy with 12 & 9, the intangibles that Splitter brings, and the defense that Varejao plays, in spite of physical limitations (e.g., lack of speed, vertical).

    viper160
    November 12th, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    “so when you think about it what exactly does DeJuan bring to defensive table?”

    He brings plenty. First of all, he’s very disruptive with his quick hands and long reach. He’s the leading non-guard in steals per 36 minutes, and probably causes more turnovers than any non-guard as well. He’s ostensibly the second best shot-blocker on the team, even though at present McDyess is out-performing over a very small sample size (7 games), and Splitter does not have enough minutes to qualify (Blair had a higher block per 36 mpg. avg. last season over 82 games than McDyess). Blair is also ostensibly the 2nd best rebounder on our team, and is also just 21, and has by far the highest upside out of any of our “bigs”.

    “DeJuan is already at a disadvantage height wise because he is not going to grow so we have a 6 foot 5 guy attempting to guard players bigger and more athletic than him.”

    Blair is 6’6.5″, has huge hands and an enormous wingspan, and has a standing reach and vertical jump that is comparable to the majority of PF’s across the league. Size is really not as big of an issue as many think. NBA players don’t play with their heads. It matters more where their hands extend to, and how high they can jump. Blair is also comparable athletically to most PF’s in the league. His problems right now are more from a lack of experience than they are from size or athleticism issues.

    “Then when you figure in the fact that DeJuan’s offensive tools are limited to put back baskets – one has to wonder when it will occur to DeJuan that maybe just maybe I need a 17 foot outside shot so I can force the defense to come out on me.”

    In case you weren’t aware, 17 foot jumpers don’t materialize that quickly at the NBA level if your previous development did not encompass that aspect of his game. He’s working on it as we speak, and is still just 21 years old — keep your pants on.

    “When DeJuan is on the floor he allows the defense to collapse on Tim, Antonio or Tiago since the defense knows that he cannot make a jump shot….”

    I hate to tell you, but Splitter does not have a 17 foot jumper either. No offense, but it’s obvious you have no clue about the value of DeJuan Blair. Until you do, it would make a bit more sense to be just a tad more tentative in your commentary about the issue.

  • http://www.sanantoniospurs.com SPURS FAN SINCE 89

    Spurs Nation.
    Well temple just got and released and we found out that Anderson is out for 2 moths with a stress fracture in his foot. Lets bring in some replacements for these guys then. If we’re paying all that money for Bonner, when he’s healthy lets start using him. I still say bring up De Colo.
    Also Mark Jackson said that Pop wants to limit Timmy’s minutes per game. I’m sure it won’t be as low as Ming (24 minutes per game) but lets get Splitter some more minutes and experience. Lets let him get a better feel for the NBA and get his body back on shape.
    Also the Spurs can’t score against zone defense. What’s new. Maybe that’s why we got swept last year in the 2nd round by Phoenix.
    BEAT L.A.