Spurs Draft Thoughts 2007

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[kml_flashembed movie=”http://www.youtube.com/v/nlrqMS7tp-A” height=”350″ width=”425″ /]
Watch that video of Tiago Splitter. All of it.
That video, all nine minutes and twenty-one seconds of it, is a useful and educational look at the 2007 first round draft pick for the Spurs, a Brazilian forward with good size, quickness, and hustle. Good deal right? Yes and no. You see, the reason for you watching that video is two fold. The first reason is as aforementioned above, to get the visual lowdown on this cat. But the second, well, let’s just say this is about as much of Tiago Splitter as you’re going to see for a while. Savor it.
I wasn’t disappointed when the Spurs selected Splitter with the 28th overall pick in the draft Thursday night. Maybe a little surprised, disappointed another player, like Arron Afflalo or Rudy Fernandez (the latter of which I consider the second coming of Manu), didn’t drop down to us, but not disappointed at what we got where we got it. After the past few season I think most people, Spurs fans especially, have grown accustom to seeing foreign players taken. At least this time I knew who Tiago Splitter is. I’m still trying to figure out who Ian Mahinmi is and why the Spurs drafted him in ’05. Splitter, on the other hand, was projected as a lottery pick a couple of years ago, but after pulling out of the 2004 and 2005 drafts, stock started to slip. If anything, the Spurs were fortunate to snag a talent like Tiago late in the first round. If you know anything about this kid, or just watch that video, you’ll quickly recognize talent is not the problem with this selection.
The problem was expressed about two seconds after the 6-11 forward’s name was called. The good folks calling the action on ESPN quickly mentioned where Splitter was coming from, and no, I don’t mean Brazil. TAU Ceramica. Splitter’s pro club in Spain. The same team that has been holding Luis Scola hostage for the past couple of years. Apparently this athletic forward, our first round pick, this talented promising new piece, comes with a huge buyout from TAU. And with one year remaining on his contract, in all likelihood we won’t see Splitter in a Spurs uniform for at least one season.
Nevertheless, let me give you a breakdown and some thoughts on this guy.
| Tiago Splitter | PF | Brazil | 6-11 | 235 lbs. |
The first thing that excites me about Splitter is just his activity level on the floor. He isn’t a prolific scorer, and you can’t expect him to set the net on fire, but he does have an adequate post game, and moreover, he does a lot of things all over the floor. His energy and rebounding are going to be a nice addition when he finally suits up for the Spurs. He seems particularly effective on the offensive glass, using his quickness to get around the rim for tip-ins and put backs. He could use some extra weight, and there has been talk about him being prone to injury, so some bulk will help in the league. But despite that he is a good finisher around the basket.
Another big plus for Splitter is his quickness and speed, especially in the open court. He runs the floor well and his speed should match up well against just about any of the big men in the NBA. He should be able to get dunks and layups in transition regularly. He obviously has good length, with an impressive 7’2 wingspan. And combined with his quickness, he should be able to defend quicker forwards and cover a good amount of space on the floor in zones and help situations.
If I have one major concern about Splitter it’s his strength and toughness. I’m not entirely confident in his ability to stay healthy and grind it out in an 82 game season. The initial prescription is for him to get bigger, but the worry is always that bulking could mean losing quickness, which would ultimately be a net loss for his game. A little extra upper body strength wouldn’t hurt, however. He’s also going to have to become more aggressive on both ends. He has the physical gifts and talent to do more offensively than he’s been doing, and defensively he may not be ready to deal with the bigger bodies he’ll have to guard.
In all, after the year he’ll likely play in Spain this season, I think the Splitter will be a fairly complete and league ready player when he finally hits the hardwood for the Spurs. By that time Robert Horry will likely be retired and he Tiago could be the first big off the bench, or even contend for a starting spot. The big concern is that it takes longer than a year to get him over here, in which case it just becomes a waiting game, something I’m sure no one wants. Rest assured, whenever Tiago Splitter does start playing for the Spurs, they’ll be getting a quality player who can make an impact.
| Marcus Williams | SG/PG | Arizona | 6-7 | 207 lbs. |
Let’s not forget, the Spurs had an early second round pick in this draft. Just five picks after taking Splitter, the Spurs selected Marcus Williams with the 33rd pick overall. Marcus is a smooth 6-7 scorer out of Arizona, coming out after just two seasons there. I’m actually think Williams has some potential with the Spurs. I thought the Spurs needed an additional guard, mostly to add depth behind Parker. Although I think Williams will be more of a two in the league, I think we can eventually work in some time for him between both guard spots if he develops. Second round picks aren’t guaranteed anything, but should the Spurs decide to hang on to Williams, they’ll be getting a nice additional piece.
Marcus Williams is a good scorer who averaged 16.6 points for Arizona as a sophomore. He’s got a nice looking jump shot, which is said to have range from three, although he didn’t shoot the long ball particularly well last season. He does, however, have a proven mid-range game, with a good pull up jumper. His ball handling is tight and likely what makes him useful as a point guard, because it isn’t his playmaking ability. He’ll need to get better at getting his teammates involved if he wants to make it as a lead guard in the league. At six seven he has good size and length (seven foot wingspan), which makes him able to post up against a smaller mismatched guard. And moreover, he’s a excellent rebounder for a guard, averaging over six boards per game last season in college.
Unfortunately, even with his size Williams isn’t much of a defender. He’s not the most physical player and his desire to play tough defense may come into question. He’s also not the most athletic player in the world, which could also give him problems against the plethora of NBA two guards on pogo-sticks and motorized scooters running around. He had some issues in college settling for jump shots instead of driving hard into the lane, and also with turning the ball over a bit too much. Thankfully, both of those things are coachable, and easily so if the player’s willing to learn.
If Williams improves a little bit physically and gets his head game up a couple of levels, I see him sticking around with the Spurs to start his career at least. Finley, Barry, and Jacque Vaughn aren’t going to be around forever, and taking a young prospect like this and developing him over the next couple of years could pay off down the road.

Closing thoughts…
I think the Spurs did alright in this draft. Not great, but alright. I think they’re at the stage where some guys are starting to get up in age and help that come in right away wouldn’t hurt. Even so, Splitter will certainly be a big asset in a year or two, and Williams could also be a nice contributor down the road. When you’re coming off a title and you’re pleased with your team, I suppose you can settle for prospects for the future. Yeah, I would have liked to see immediate help, but in terms of talent and potential, the Spurs did alright.
Grade: B-