San Antonio Spurs: Was Offering Tiago Splitter $36 Million a Good Idea?
We've learned throughout the past decade or so to never doubt the San Antonio Spurs organization or their management of players. Players who were left for dead in the draft or from other teams like Bruce Bowen, Manu Ginobili, Malik Rose and Danny Green have all greatly contributed to the success of this team in different eras.
At first glance, it may seem like the Spurs got robbed. By offering him this amount of money, Splitter is essentially worth the same as Tim Duncan, Danilo Gallinari, Ryan Anderson and Paul Millsap—all of whom make around $9 million a year (via ESPN).
Although most of those names mentioned above aren't superstars, they have all established themselves as quality starters or sixth men who already have a niche in this league.
Splitter, on the other hand, holds career averages of 8.3 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 19.3 minutes per game (per Basketball Reference). The 2012-13 season was his best one, as he posted career-highs in scoring (10.3 PPG), rebounding (6.4), and free throw percentage (73 percent).
On the surface, and from glancing at Splitter's career accomplishments, giving him $9 million a year seems like an abomination.
However, when you dig deeper into the details, his contract doesn't look as bad.
First off, Splitter is a legit center who is 6'11" or 7'0" tall, and quality centers are usually paid much more in this league than a forward or guard.
For example, Roy Hibbert, a defensive powerhouse who came off of a career season in 2011-12 and averaged 12.8 PPG and 8.8 RPG, earned four-year $58 million contract in the following offseason. I'm not saying Splitter is the same caliber of a player as Hibbert, but the demand for good centers in the league is extremely high right now. Emeka Okafor, Nene, Tyson Chandler and JaVale McGee are some other centers who are earning more than $10 million a year.
Splitter's efficiency is also a major contributor in the contract he earned. In the 2012-13 season, he registered a PER of 18.7 (per Hollinger's Player Stats), along with a true shooting percentage of 60.9 percent. Splitter ranked 13th among centers in the league in PER, which doesn't seem too extraordinary, but centers typically have a higher overall player efficiency rating than a guard anyway.
Per 36 minutes, Splitter's averages are at 15.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists, which definitely don't look as unimpressive as his numbers in 24.7 minutes per game during the regular season.
Skills wise, Splitter probably has one of the most polished offensive games for a big man in the entire league. He has a legitimate back-to-the-basket game with great footwork around the rim, along with a reliable jump hook that he has had since coming into the league.
According to Hoop Data, Splitter converted on a remarkable 67.8 percent of his attempts at the rim this past season, which is impressive considering 70 percent of his total attempts came at the rim. If his efficient scoring translates with more minutes per game in the future, he could potentially be worth much more than what his contract pays him.
Defensively, Splitter improved greatly with another year under the mastermind known as Gregg Popovich. According to 82games.com, he held opposing centers to a PER of just 14.5 and is steadily transforming into a better defensive center in the ranks of Hibbert or Chandler.
With all that being said, Splitter's contract doesn't look as bad anymore. Sure, the Spurs could have made a bigger effort to land Al Jefferson or even Dwight Howard, but they made it clear that Splitter would be their starting center of the future and they have to live with whatever happens down the road.
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