It took three long years before Tiago Splitter finally arrived in San Antonio.
Touted as one of the best big men in Europe, expectations are high, the San Antonio Spurs once believed that he could be a game-changer, a guy that could perfectly complement Tim Duncan in the post and they still should.
Splitter is not all hype, he has the potential to meet expectation or even exceed them. However, an early injury during his first training camp with the Spurs derailed his development.
It caused him to miss a lot games early in the season and then found it hard to get his rhythm back and even harder to crack the Spurs’ regular rotation.
DeJuan Blair thrived as the team’s starting center for the better part of the season and Antonio McDyess had his turn towards the end of the regular season and in playoffs.
Despite being the best in West during the season, the Spurs failed to make it past the first-round because their frontline was dominated by the Memphis Grizzlies.
As soon as the series started against the Grizzlies, I believed the Spurs could have used Splitter more, but it might have happened a little too late.
They were many reasons why he was not utilized in the playoffs right away.
One reason could be because Splitter has never been a part of the regular rotation and has been given only spot minutes from time to time.
The other could be coach Gregg Popovich’s lack of trust in him.
In all fairness, Splitter’s rookie season was not a complete failure. Rather, it was overshadowed by his inability to stay healthy and the emergence of a little-known rookie named Gary Neal.
In 60 regular season games, he averaged 4.6 points and 3.4 rebounds on 52.9 percent shooting from the field in 12.3 minutes per game.
He was even better as a starter, In six games as a starter during the regular season, Splitter managed to put up 8.7 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting better than 52 percent from the floor.
Then in the playoffs, he averaged 6.7 points, 4.6 rebounds on 62.5 percent field goal shooting in 16.7 minutes per ball game in 3 games.
Next season, there is a great chance that Splitter will be the Spurs’ starting center especially if Antonio McDyess pushes through with his retirement.
Splitter is a shot-blocking presence, tough on the post, great at the pick and roll, has a good feel for the game and has the length and size to defend and score against other bigs in NBA.
The best part?
He still has a lot to improve, his free throw shooting needs a lot of work and he needs to develop a reliable mid-range jumper to add to his offensive arsenal. Also, he has to learn how keep himself in the game by avoiding useless fouls.
After a year under his belt and another training camp in San Antonio, there is a great chance that he will only get better.
Splitter proved that he can be more productive when given more playing time. If only he can stay healthy, his sophomore season with the Spurs will definitely be one of his better years in San Antonio.