Tiago Splitter and minutes per game
The Spurs are on a seven game winning streak, have an undefeated 3-0 mark so far on the Rodeo Road Trip and arguably the team’s best player, Manu Ginobili, just returned to the lineup. You know what that means. It’s time for us to find something to complain about.
I already have my suspicions about the team’s defense in the long term, so we’re not going to touch on that. Instead, we’re going to talk about Tiago Splitter’s minutes. There was a discussion in the comments section yesterday about the amount of time Splitter is playing. Varner also mentioned it in El Conclusión following the Spurs’ win over the Grizzlies a couple of weeks ago.
Right now, Splitter is averaging 21 minutes per game. That number puts him ninth on the team in terms of mpg, third among big men. Matt Bonner is actually fourth in minutes per game for the big men. Haters rejoice. Tiago is putting up averages of 16 points, nine rebounds and a block and a half per 36 minutes according to Basketball Reference. He is second in the NBA right now in field goal percentage at almost 63%. Splitter was leading the league in field goal percentage for a while, but was recently overtaken by the Knicks’ Tyson Chandler. Either way, with that kind of efficiency you’d want him playing more minutes, right?
I can’t tell you why Splitter doesn’t play more minutes, when it seems pretty clear that he’s the second best big man on the team. I can, however, tell you a few things we do know. This season is a mess. There are a lot of games in not a lot of time. We’re seeing a lot of players get injured more frequently than in normal years. The Spurs already had Manu Ginobili go down with a broken hand. Freak injury, yes, but an injury this season nonetheless. TJ Ford is still out with a slight tear of his hamstring that he suffered in a loss to the Bucks.
Outside of San Antonio, we’ve also seen both Al Horford and Kwame Brown go down with weird pectoral muscle tears, which your rarely ever see in the NBA. The Hornets’ Eric Gordon is out right now with a knee injury that hasn’t healed ”with treatment and rest.” There isn’t a lot of rest to go around in this compressed season. That the Spurs had just one game in the last five days is a minor miracle. A season like this isn’t conducive to rest and recovery from grueling NBA games.
Here’s what else we know: Tiago Splitter is injury-prone. We talked about it a little last season when a similar discussion came up. Then, Tiago Splitter wasn’t playing nearly at all because he didn’t know the system and missed training camp. Splitter was injured in training camp last year for the Spurs, an injury that sabotaged his entire rookie season. He was injured before the FIBA Americas tournament this summer. Splitter was injured last summer when playing for Brazil in preparation for the FIBA World Championships in Turkey. Two seasons ago, while Splitter was in Spain playing for Caja Laboral, Tiago injured his ankle and missed time.
Tiago has a nasty habit of picking up nagging injuries. Not major ones that force him to miss a huge chunk of time, but little ones that last for a couple of weeks and limit his effectiveness and playing time. Those nagging injuries go away with proper rest time, which isn’t at a premium this season for the Spurs. While it would be nice to see Tiago playing 30 minutes a night for San Antonio, the team’s main goal should be fielding a completely healthy lineup when the playoffs start. If Splitter only plays 20 minutes per night in an effort to reach that goal, that’s fine by me.