What to do with Tiago?


Tiago Splitter is part of the San Antonio Spurs’ future plans. He was considered to be the best big man outside of the NBA seeing how he was named ACB league MVP before coming to San Antonio.

However, a month and a half into his rookie NBA season, Splitter is having difficulty getting consistent playing time in coach Gregg Popovich’s frontcourt rotation.

When Splitter finally signed in July, most NBA observers believed Popovich had a new starting center to pair with Tim Duncan. The search for Duncan’s side-kick was over. Right?

That hasn’t panned out quite yet. In fact, Splitter and Duncan have rarely been on the court together at all.

Splitter has played in 19 games averaging 4.5 points and 2.5 rebounds while shooting 50.8% from the floor in 11 minutes per ball game. He has scored in double figures on two occasions. The first came on a November 25 win over Cleveland Cavaliers where he had 18 points and five rebounds while playing 26 minutes and then scored 12 points and grabbed six boards in 24 minutes of action against the Golden State Warriors last December 8.

Clearly if given more playing time, Splitter could proved to be the big man the Spurs are hoping for.  

However, the Spurs seem to take a very careful approach with Splitter and this have drawn some ire from some Spurs fans eager to see more of Splitter on the floor.

It’s apparent he’s eager to show the Spurs what he can bring to the table but hasn’t got the needed break yet. Also, he has a clear grasp of the Spurs scheme, and even in limited minutes he has been effective and has shown excellent potential.

So why is he not getting the minutes? Here are some probable reasons:

  • He is coming from a various injuries leading up to his arrival in San Antonio including suffering a strained calf muscle injury during training camp thus his learning process of the Spurs system slowed down.
  • He missed the entire preseason including the first few games of the regular season.
  • Besides Duncan, three of the Spurs frontcourt rotation players (DeJuan Blair, Antonio McDyess and Matt Bonner) are all back with the team making it difficult for Tiago to get significant playing time.
  • Bonner has been effective in stretching the floor for the Spurs in the most part this season.
  • McDyess continues to be a steady veteran presence providing some needed hustle and grit.
  • After a slow start, Blair seems to be in tuned with the team’s starting unit. 

For Splitter it’s like trying to fit to a team that is already made which can be tough. Let’s face it, playing a supporting role is brand new for him but he will continue to get spot minutes until coach Popovich is comfortable enough to put him in for longer stretches.

Now here is food for thought: if the frontcourt is crowded, and he needs more time on the court to continue to adapt to the Spurs system, then why not send him to the Austin Toros for a few games and see what happens?

OK let the angry comments come in and the uproar from Spurs fans begin. 

This is by no means any disrespect for Splitter or his game. What I know is with Toros, he can play a lot of minutes and his learning curve with the Spurs’ complex system could be cut short. By doing so, the Spurs will see more of Tiago in action and will be able to pin-point what he needs to improve on and what schemes he needs to familiarize on.

And then, they could simply call him up when they feel that he’s ready. Sounds like a win-win doesn’t it?

What do you think?