Tiago Splitter and the Spurs’ playoff rotation
The smart folks at SpursTalk are following the international press, which is giving positive, but subtle, indicators that Tiago Splitter is closer than previously expected to joining the San Antonio Spurs.Â This on the heels of the uber-reliable Johnny Ludden’s recent proclamation that the Spurs are growing more confident in their ability to sign Splitter this summer. Having already extended Manu Ginobili, the Spurs could do nothing better this offseason than to secure the services of Splitter, as the current Mavs-Spurs series gives clear indication.
Over at Mathletics, our friend Wayne Winston has provided a delectable buffet of Mavs-Spurs Game 2 adjusted plus minus observations. Hurry on over, and take note:
In this series the Spurs have played 13 points better than average series and the Mavs 7 points better than average. When Manu, Duncan, McDyess, and Jefferson are on the court with Hill or Parker the Spurs are +25 points in 38 minutes (playing 40 points better than average). This combo was also great in the regular season, so we see history repeating itself….
…Spurs still need to do better with Duncan out. In regular seasonÂ Blair, Manu,Hill Mason and McDyess was ok (5 points better than average) so it might be worth a shot. In regular seasonÂ Blair Manu Hill Jefferson and Bonner was great (35 points better than average) but thisÂ lineup has stumbled so far. I wouldÂ try Blair ManuÂ Parker Jefferson Bonner . This has been hardly usedÂ (24 minutes in regular season,Â 3 points better than average), but it is worth a shot.
What does this have to do with Tiago Splitter? Everything, and more.
Tim Duncan played incredibly effective defense last night, but his career-worn kneesÂ increasingly limit his ability to defend in one-on-one situations. No lift. His lateral speed is slower than in the past. Etc.
Antonio McDyess is a similar study. He too played exceptionally good defense on Dirk Nowitzki last night, but it’s difficult to imagine that McDyess has more than, at most, one more decent postseason in his legs. Don’t expect McDyess to carry a heavy load nextÂ season. Those years are past.
And then there is the problem of super rookie DeJuan Blair. Namely, he’s short. His height is not always an issue, but against teams that feature legitimate size in the post (Mavericks, Lakers) he’s a problematic play for Gregg Popovich. John Hollinger picked up the question of DeJuan Blair’s place in the Spurs’ rotation early this afternoon, and his words are appropriate here.
Blair is listed as a 6-7 power forward, but effectively his position is center. If you’ll notice, they never play him and Duncan at the same time because it screws up the spacing — so he’s basically Duncan’s backup at center, which limits him to about 10 minutes a night. The fact he couldn’t make two-foot shots last night didn’t help him either.
Tiago Splitter is a solution–or, at least, a partial solution-to these issues.
Splitter is an ideal defender against players such as Dirk Nowitzki. He’s a suitable pick and roll mate for Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and George Hill. Splitter can play high-low with Tim Duncan. He’s a perfect match for San Antonio.
One assumes that the Spurs have given up on Ian Mahinmi, but I hope not. A regular season rotation (one that actually allows Tim Duncan rest) of Duncan, Splitter, Blair, Matt Bonner and Mahinmi looks nice on paper.
After last night’s Spurs-Mavericks game, the TNT crew carried out the tired refrain that this postseason is a last hurrah for the Spurs. But I’m not at all convinced of that. By adding Splitter, the Spurs would continue their practice of reloading on the sly.
Put differently, a Splitter-Duncan front court would allow players like Bonner, Mahinmi, and Blair to thrive within better defined roles. And the Spurs would no longer have to worry about Antonio McDyess and his proverbial tank. Tiago Splitter is nothing for the Spurs, if not a big bag of solutions.