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.  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 season  Blair, Manu,Hill Mason and McDyess was ok (5 points better than average) so it might be worth a shot. In regular season Blair Manu Hill Jefferson and Bonner was great (35 points better than average) but this lineup has stumbled so far. I would try Blair Manu Parker Jefferson Bonner . This has been hardly used  (24 minutes in regular season, 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 knees  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 next  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.

Bang. Bang.

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.


    Splitter is like Varejao with post moves.

    That’s a VERY good thing.
    Agreed. This comparison has been made by Hubie Brown, too. If so then all Spurs fans should be very excited to see hem come over.

    They shouldn’t have traded scola away
    Absolutely but that’s water under the bridge. Something that can’t be taken back so time to move on.
    Another reason that I’m very excited about Marcus Williams and Garrett Temple. These guys can play good spot minutes during the regular season and will be cheap during the off-season.

    Temple – yes – Marcus – no. Marcus needs to gain significant weight in order to play in the NBA. He has the body of a Shaun Livingston…ie a oothpick…andwont be able to play bigger 3s or 2s regardless of how “smooth” he looks in the D-league. In order to play with his type of body in the NBA he needs serious hops, defensive stoppage or unreal scoring ability. He has none of the hthree IMHO. Gee is coming since he has a NBA type body but needs more work on his D.


    I’ve seen Splitter playing hundreds of times, really. He’s the best center playing in Europe. That’s for sure. But he is not John Kennedy. Sorry, I mean, he’s a center, not a power forward. No way he can defend Nowitzki. Two meters outside the paint and he got lost.
    But you are right about pick and roll. Even more. He graduated with honors in that degree. Time and again.
    Agreed. I’ve seen enough of him on youtube and in the ’08 FIBA tournament in Vegas to know that he belongs in the paint. If he trys to play Dirk away from his comfort zone he will get toasted. He hasn’t the lateral movement to handle Dirk or any other player or that type that far from the paint.
    Word is that Splitter is soft guys…Fades under pressure and doesnt return agreesive play.

    We need a beast in the paint. A blue collar worker with a nasty streak. No more choir boys to add to the ones we already have.

    Time to start bringing in ballers. We need a guy like Perkins of the Celtics or Noah of the Bulls.

    Duncan wont play forever…
    I hope you’re wrong but maybe we could get a brain transplant done on him and put Blair’s in his skull.

    It will work… I saw it in a movie


    I am all for speculating when/if Splitter is going to play next year for the Spurs. but our team is still making a run THIS year. i think that if they do win it (first obstacle, Mavs) that it will only help the chances of bringing Splitter over.

    If Splitter comes over we cannot keep Mahinmi and Bonner. Duncan, Blair, and McDyess have contracts on the books; add in Splitter. if we bring back Ian and Matt we would have way too many big men. so i’ll settle for McDyess and Ian over Bonner

    lots to consider, but here is what i am hoping:

    1) RJ and McDyess play great and help Spurs win 5th championship in 2010!
    2) RJ opts out and signs a 4 to 5 year deal at $8 million a year
    I don’t think that is likely with the possible/probable lockout coming in a year. Maybe it does happen but IMO he is worth more in the 5 -6 milllion range than 8. And at 30 I would give him 4 years. Maybe 3 with a team option on the 4th. And with the lockout most likely to happen why would he give up 15 if most teams presently wont give him 30 – 40 mil over x number of years? Most teams aren’t giving out those types of contracts now and that’s one of the reasons that a lockout is looming. $$$$$$$$ and the owners feel they aren’t getting their fair share – read most of what’s to be had . And if RJ does opt out his performance in the POs will determine if he really is worth what you think he is. If this team doesn’t go far due to RJ’s low numbers then he wont get that from Holt or any other owner either IMHO. And what will be the new CBA and how will that effect salaries? Don’t know but that also will have an impact ofn RJ’s future.
    3) Splitter signs for full MLE (i think Marion signed for that last year)
    3) Ian ($1.5 million/year) and Bogans ($1 million/year) are resigned at modest rates.
    I really dont see Bogans back next year.
    I see Hairston, Temple, Gee, and maybeIan all in training camp with Pop giving Hairston the shot he deserves at the 3. He outplayed Bogans in this year’s preseason and then wasn’t given the chance. Most likely that is due to Pop’s vet preference but next year he will get his shot.
    2010-11 lineup:
    PG: Parker, Temple, Gee
    SG: Manu, Hill
    SF: RJ, Bogans, Hairston
    PF: Duncan, Blair
    C: McDyess, Splitter, Mahinmi

    this would be a very competitive line up at about $70 million per year (if RJ opts out and resigns; if not, $77 million for 2010-2011 year, plus cap penalty)
    That still leaves 2 positions open (assuming that Bogans is gone) and we have the 20th pick in the upcoming draft. Most likely the FO will be targeting a SF/3 so we’ll see what happens.

    I don’t think Mahinmi will be back. He just isn’t that good. I’d rather take on a new project or pick a player that can actually contribute.
    I think he will be asked to training camp. He can be signed to a cheap contract IIRC and when on the curt has put up good numbers in limited time. His real problem is he fouls way too much but I think that if given decent minutes he has the ability to learn and correct that. Frankly he might be asked to the Thunder camp since he wont be under contract with the Spurs and Presti was part of the FO that drafted him. And with that young team he has the opportunity to develop with lower expectations. That might be just what he needs to turn into a solid NBA player.

  • Bushka

    The spurs will resign Bonner.

    In all the above theoretical line ups where sandwich boy is missing, you are also missing any form of shooting from the outside.

    I don’t think it’s a case of the spurs can’t live without him at all, but i do think that they will want that option of having a true shooter at the 4 if they need it.

    So yeah I don’t see them letting Bonner go without replicating the skill set. When was the last time the spurs didn’t have a stretch 4?

    They have auditioned Haislip and Tolliver, searching for the other type of stretch 4 (the athletic one) but so far have not come up with a viable alternative to Mud guts.

    I hope Ian stays has a crazy summer league where he overpowers all comers and turns into an athletic intimidator. Don’t think it’s going to happen though.

  • Bushka

    Just an addendum.

    I know it’s all kinds of crazy to talk about Bosh.

    I also know that if he decides to go Toronto will work out a sign and trade with the team he is going to simply because they wont have any other choice.

    That said I don’t see them taking back RJ as an expiring. The guy they would want back as an expiring is TP.

    Now …..I can’t believe i’m doing this considering my lust for all things TP is well documented….

    But they do have some PG’s they don’t like there, and Jarret Jack is a solid player at 5 mill per, and McDyess might be an interesting contract to them because he has one of those wonderful partially guaranteed contracts which you can waive in the final year and get your cap relief early.


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  • mrlikster

    finally someone admits the obvious, blair is too short. i love him, but trading him while his value is high is not a bad idea.

  • Jim Miller (jimjule)

    Splitter will not play for the Spurs. Its all about money and the Spurs can’t offer him enough to come to the U.S. I’ve watched clips of him playing and he shows a lot of talent, but he won’t fit in right away at the center slot. Like Blair who is too short, Splitter is too slight to defend the big centers of the NBA. He likes moving down to the wing spots on offense and only goes to the low post when he is playing against shorter defenders. He does have a decent face up shot and move, but can’t put the ball on the floor for more than two bounces. I hope I’m wrong, but Splitter doesn’t seem too interested in coming to the NBA with the money he is earning in Europe. It would be very likely that he’ll get a fat contract extension where he is now. San Antonio won’t be able to match it. We probably will lose several players from this roster, but it won’t free up enough cash. Boy did that Jefferson trade really mess the Spurs up.

  • Larry

    i don’t think we gave ian much of a chance this year. he would have undoubtedly had some struggles, but we never gave him a good look. i think ian put together some nice games towards the end of the year. getting minnesota’s big’s in foul trouble, contributing to a near win against the mavs without tim and manu, and dominating garbage time with almost a point per minute in games against orlando and golden state. fouls have been an issue, but i think the worst we could do is let him go and watch him blossom. he could at least fill out our bench. i predict some strides in the summer for ian. we should start moving forward. trade dice, let ian play.