For the first time in over a decade at least, the San Antonio Spurs have a free agent big that is going to be highly sought after and there's more than a .5 percent chance he leaves. Good news for Spurs fans is Tiago Splitter appears to be finally living up to his potential that many believed he possessed when came stateside three years ago.
The problem with that comes this summer when the Brazilian center hits free agency.
Splitter, a restricted free agent this summer, recently spoke with ESPN Brazil about his contract situation and basically said it's not something he's giving much thought and is enjoying his time with the Spurs.
"It has not started yet. I guess we'll just talk about it in June, July. A thing about San Antonio is they talk to players in the middle of the season. And I would not worry about it. It's a team where I'm feeling fine now and I want to stay here "
Always good to hear a player is content. That doesn't change the fact that Splitter is going to be in high demand this summer. He's also going to get paid with a capital PAID by someone, hopefully the Spurs. This year Splitter makes just a shade under $4 million and the Spurs would probably consider themselves lucky to get him to re-sign at double that for three or four years.
Right now, Splitter is averaging 10.3 points, and 5.6 rebounds per game with a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 20.53. His numbers in January are 12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. While that doesn't sound like $8 million plus a year numbers, consider what other centers who are starters or key role players have received in the past two offseasons since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed:
2012: Omer Asik, 3 years, $25 million. 2011-2012 numbers: 3.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 13.44 PER.
2012: JaVale McGee, 4 years, $44 million. 2011-2012 numbers: 10.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg, w/ Denver, 19.90 PER overall.
2011: DeAndre Jordan, 4 years, $43 million, 2010-2011 numbers: 7.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1,8 bpg, 16.39 PER.
These comparisons obviously aren't apples to apples. All of these guys are different players from Splitter and each other, but they all are either started for their team or was the first big man off the bench the year before their contracts were up and put up similar numbers. Splitter, along with Minnesota's Nikola Pekovic, is going to get something in the $8-11 million a year range. The good news is, since he's restricted, the Spurs will have the final say on who Splitter is playing with next year. It just might cost them more than they wanted.
My guess is he signs closer to $8-9 million a year because of his age and lack of athleticism, but it just takes one crazy front office to offer him a ridiculous offer to make the Spurs pay more than they want to bring Splitter back. Still, it's encouraging that he likes San Antonio and wants to be there long term. Just don't expect any home town discounts.
(translation via Google Translate)