Tiago Splitter had an up-and-down 2012-13 season and LeBron James’ block on his dunk attempt in the 2013 NBA Finals is the image that sticks out the most. During the off-season, the San Antonio Spurs re-signed the 29-year-old to a four-year, $36 million contract, which left fans feeling the team overpaid him.
However, it seems Splitter is earning every penny of his $36 million and quieting the critics in the process.
This season, Splitter is averaging 8.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. When he scores in double-digits the Spurs are a perfect 23-0, so what has gotten into the 6-11 center?
Splitter is one of the best post defenders in the game, proving that when head coach Gregg Popovich asked him to guard Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki in the third quarter of San Antonio’s 112-106 victory over Dallas on March 2. He also is a perfect fit for the Spurs system and can quickly adjust when asked.
The 2013-14 season has seen Splitter guard players such as Zach Randolph, Mark Gasol, Kendrick Perkins and Blake Griffin just to name a few. His footwork has improved and when the shot goes up, he puts his hand up to contest without leaning into their space.
Last season Splitter’s defensive rating was ranked No. 15 in the entire league, only Marc Gasol was higher and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard was one slot lower.
San Antonio’s offense requires big men to do a lot of screening and that is where Splitter fits in well. Not only can he set a solid screen, but he can also get to back to the basket for an easy finish. That is just one of the many weapons that makes the Spurs dangerous, Splitter doesn’t need the ball to make the offense effective.
Finding skilled big men in the league right now is no easy task and that is why I believe the Spurs are lucky to have Splitter. While fans crucify Splitter for his play in the NBA Finals, he is proving that he can be a dominate big man, even if fans can not see it.
Splitter defends the post well and knows how to do the little things to help the Spurs succeed. He is one of the main reasons that San Antonio is riding a 15-game winning steak and currently sits at the top of the league.
He just might be the reason the Spurs win their fifth NBA title.
(Stats from ESPN.com and hoopstats.com)