When Tiago Splitter arrived in San Antonio last season, hopes were high that the Brazilian big man will provide an immediate impact to the team and become one of important pieces of the puzzle that the Spurs needed to make another championship run during the Duncan era.
However, an assortment of nagging injuries held back his development and after that, he found it hard to get into his rhythm and never cracked coach Gregg Popovich’s regular rotation.
Nonetheless, Splitter showed flashes of what he can do for San Antonio when healthy and if given the right amount playing time.
Back in May, I wrote a piece about Splitter expecting that he would be better in his sophomore year with the silver and black.
After 15 games this season, Tiago has never turned me down.
His numbers have a marked improvement from last year and after one season under his belt, Splitter looked to be more comfortable on the floor and seems to know role on the team.
In 60 regular season games (including six starts) last year, he averaged 4.6 points and 3.4 rebounds on 52.9 percent shooting from the field in 12.3 minutes per game.
This season, Splitter is currently averaging 7.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 19.8 minutes of action while shooting an impressive 58.9 percent from the floor.
His free throw shooting percentage also went up to 71.4 percent from a woeful 54.3 percent during his rookie year.
Also his current total number of blocks (16) this season is just one shy from all the block shots he swatted last season.
Having said that, Splitter still has a lot to learn and he can definitely improve as the season goes on.
At 6-foot-11, he has to rebound more and he needs to cut on his fouls and turnovers. The continued improvement of his foul shooting will also be crucial for the Spurs.
Splitter first and foremost is expected primarily to help improve the Spurs’ defense but the big guy has some pretty inside moves of his own.
His most impressive offensive performance this season so far, came against the Portland Trail Blazers when he scored 14 points going on a perfect 5-of-5 from the field, adding four rebounds two blocks, and two assists in 20 minutes of playing time.
More importantly, his offense came when the Spurs needed it most.
With San Antonio needing a spark, Splitter came off the bench to score eight straight points towards the end of the third period that put them back in the ball game which they eventually won 99-83.
Tim Duncan has been showing that he still got game and DeJuan Blair is likewise improving every year, but with the their thin front court rotation, all of the Spurs’ bigs including Splitter has to stay consistent on both ends of the floor.
Right now, it appears to be the Brazilian big has found his place in San Antonio.
With some of his teammates battling early injuries, Splitter should keep doing his role to help the Spurs stay competitive and win games.