I know most Spurs fans (myself included) are wondering (wishing?) if Tiago Splitter will ever come to play for the Spurs. Well we have a lot of reasons why we like him to come over: He is a big man with good athleticism and skills.
Runs the floor well and is agile for his size (6'11") .
Has a nice shooting touch, a good (and developing)
low post moves, a solid defensive player, descent rebounder
and shot blocker. He also loves to dunk (although Pop might have a problem with that...) The best part? He's still young (only 24!) so he can still develop and polish his game even more. That's not to mention his great hair and unique name.
Of course he needs to get stronger and tougher. It's also noticeable that he tends to shy away from contact and does not play a physical style (playing for the Spurs, that will change). He is also a poor free throw shooter and is foul prone so he needs to limit his mistakes although he's still maturing.
We probably all know he's really good and his game could translate to the NBA. But the real question is will he ever play for the Spurs? That's a tough one.
Let's consider the facts:
- In June 2008, Splitter signed an extension with Tau Ceramica that will keep him through 2011-2012 season (His contract is until June 30, 2012 to be exact).
- He has an option (exit clause) to sign with an NBA team after the 2009-10 season, but includes a provision requiring the team to pay an unspecified amount to Tau Ceramica to buyout the remainder of the deal if he exercises the option.
- The Spurs are limited to paying only $500,000 to buyout Splitter's contract. (The remainder will have to be paid by Tiago himself)
- If he chooses to come over next year, the Spurs will have to pay him out of the MLE because they are over the cap. Maybe around 3-4 million. Now would that be enough? I'm not sure, (I don't have the exact figure of his current annual pay).
- There is also the possibility of Splitter being a trade asset before the February trade deadline. But if I'm the Spurs I would be very cautious trading his rights, I don't want him to be Scola 2.0, Tim Varner provides a more detailed explanation on this end.
So what are the odds of Tiago joining the Spurs next year? First it should be noted that prior to his contract extension with TAU, Splitter expressed that he wants to go the NBA. The reason why he opted to sign an extension? Economics, plain and simple. At the time, the Spurs are allowed to pay him around $970,000, it's a rookie scale that limits the amount first-round picks can be paid (he was the 28th pick in 2007). TAU offered him 3-4 times as much. So you do the math...Now if Splitter decides to play for the Spurs next year, he can have an offer around 3-4 million (as I mentioned above) Because by that time, the Spurs are no longer tied up with the rookie scale limitations. But I think if it comes down to money matters, ultimately it will be up to Tiago... He has to weigh his options, what he really wants and what he thinks is the best for him. He also seems to know Manu quite well so that could only help. And if this interview is any indication, there is a fair chance he might end up playing for the Spurs next year. Also the idea of learning and playing alongside TD (one of the greatest big man to play the game) and McDyess (veteran smarts and savvy) might entice or intrigue him even more. As it would help hone his game and with the Spurs system he can develop his physicality.
It's also worth mentioning that if ever he plays for the Spurs next year, he could potentially have a bigger paycheck (although he has to wait) by the time he gets to sign his next contract (As TD will probably take even less pay or retired by that time). In short, Splitter can be the Spurs' future big man along with DeJuan Blair and Ian Mahinmi and is an important piece for Spurs in transition to the post-Tim Duncan era (I know that still might be 2-3 years from now, but it's hard to argue the value of having Tiago Splitter ASAP). So is he coming? I can only speculate and help you connect the dots. I'm inclined to think that he is (maybe it's my Spurs bias?). Because in my opinion, next year is the best time for him to be a Spur. A little more time to learn, a little more time to get comfortable, a little more time to develop and a great time to prove his worth. It's too early to tell, but it's not a stretch to say that the Spurs could become favorites to win the title with him in the lineup. A nice additional piece for a team that is already contending for the NBA title year in and year out...