Tiago Splitter. if you don't know who this is don't worry because you will hear this name mentioned constantly over the next few months. Every Spurs fan who knows about Mr. Splitter is praying that he decides to make his way to San Antonio next season. It's believed that he can be the guy that puts the team over the hump by solving one of its major concerns. Although most of us know about Tiago, not all of us have actually seen him play. Thanks to Tim C. posting a link to some ACB games, I was able to finally see the Brazilian in action. For anyone who hasn't had a chance to see the games, and because I was bored and had nothing else to do, I decided to come up with a bit of a report on how Splitter actually plays. Check out my observations after the jump.
I am by no means a scout but, like I said, I was bored. I also really just wanted to jot down the things I noticed about Tiago while I was watching his games. You are free to make any comments you want to about anything I say because i may very well be wrong about some of these things. If you want to and you don't mind listening to Spanish announcers call the games (I find them quite entertaining despite not knowing what they're saying) you can watch the replays of the games here. Just go to all the Caja Laboral matches.
Instead of listing all his strengths and weaknesses, I decided to divide them into four categories; Offense, Defense, Physical traits and any Intangibles that I saw.
- His overall offense is very limited. Outside of the post, he doesn't have much of an offensive game.
- He has a fairly decent post game. Not the most skilled player in the post but he gets the job done with great awareness and tremendous footwork. Timmy might have to teach him a thing or two though.
- He isn't the greatest screen setter out there,especially for his size. He sets weak pick on a regular basis and slips the pick most of the time, much like Dejuan Blair does. I suppose this isn't all that bad. Imagine what a Ginobili-Splitter pick and roll will look like.
- He is a surprisingly good FT shooter. He isn't automatic from the line but shoots them better than all of our bigs and even some of our guards. Around 80% in the ACB according to DraftExpress.com.
- By far his best attribute on the offensive end(at least from my point of view) is his passing. He shows a remarkable ability to get the ball to his teammates, especially when doubled in the post. Although there is the occasional mistake (he's human) he does a wonderful job of making the right pass. This may not always be the pass that leads to the assist but his ability to pass the ball is definitely something you would notice if you saw him play.
- Splitter's strength is in his defense. This is where he will make his money. He has excellent awareness and shows great fundamentals on the defensive end, something the Spurs will welcome.
- He has great discipline on defense. Doesn't bite on shot fakes and pass fakes. he knows how to defend without fouling as he goes strait up to contest shots rather that trying to get the block every time.
- He contests just about every shot that he can, unless his man is shooting a jumper that he can't make or he is beaten to the basket by a quick guard.
- His defensive footwork is really good for a player his size and this allows him to defend quicker bigs as well as defend the pick and roll well. He has the ability to hedge on screens and still get back to his man in time.
- He boxes out very well on defense. In fact, one of the reason his rebounding numbers are lower than people might like is because of the focus he puts on just boxing out. When a shot goes up the first thing he does is find his man and box him out, he doesn't care if he actually gets the board, long as the other team doesn't.
- He isn't a shot blocker. Not his game. He can block shots, don't get me wrong, but he would rather contest hard than waste energy trying to get a block. I also think it will help his numbers if he wasn't playing against shooting bigs as he does in the ACB. With limited athleticism, most of his block would come directly under the basket.. Asking him to block a shot outside the restricted circle is a bit much.
- The best part of watching Tiago Splitter play defense is his ability to make the proper rotations. He seems to always rotate to the right area while not jeopardizing his defense of his individual assignment. His teammates help with defending but he often has to make up for their defensive mistakes. Anyone who is a fan of defense will absolutely love seeing him play. Those crisp rotations that we all dream of seeing the Spurs make again on a regular basis seem to be second nature to him. It's a joy to watch.
- He's a 7 footer with a 7'2" wingspan. Let's just get that out the way.
- His athleticism is limited. DraftExpress says he has a 31" max vertical leap (John wall has a 39 to put it in perspective) but, from what I've seen, he doesn't use it much on the floor, except maybe for grabbing rebounds.
- His quickness is a lot better than I thought it would be for someone his size. He seems like he would always have the advantage in that department when facing NBA centers.
- He doesn't shy away from contact. He actually led the ACB in fouls drawn per game. He's a fighter. He wouldn't be afraid to go into traffic for a board if he had to.
- I'm not sure if he has limited stamina but it seems like he doesn't overwork himself. He seems to only use as much energy as is needed to perform the task at hand.
- The most obvious physical trait that Splitter has is his lack of bulk. He gets pushed around in the post far too often on both ends of the floor. And these are not Dwight Howard type of guys doing the pushing. At 245 lbs, he certainly needs to add a little more to be able to hold up against the Andrew Bynums of the league.
- He has good energy, even though he doesn't use much of it unless he has to. Comparing him to Anderson Varejao is a bit inaccurate to me because he is nowhere near that energetic.
- He hustles. He genuinely cares about winning and shows that he is willing to save loose balls and fight for rebounds. There is a limit, though. Don't expect him to dive parallel to the court to save a ball going out of bounds. He does a solid job though.
- He's a bit of a pesk. He doesn't seem to be as annoying as Varejao is but he does do little things (subtle push here and there) to annoy his opponent. European players who are used to it would not mind as much but guys in the NBA might find it to be a little too much. Advantage Splitter.
- Doesn't try to do too much. He knows his limitations. Doesn't do what he knows he can't do and I don't just mean that he doesn't take bad shots(which he doesn't) but something as simple as not trying to dive across the lane to get a block when he clearly can not make it, not trying to grab a rebound when his teammate is clearly going to get it, not trying to make the "home run play" or the "highlight reel pass". He makes the simple play always and knows what he can and can not do.
- Looks like a bad ass. Maybe it's just me, but looking at this guy I wouldn't want to mess with him. I don't think he's a dirty player but just by looking at him I wouldn't want to test him to find out. Seems like the kind of guy the Spurs need.
- He is a team player. The most important thing of all. He defers to his teammates and you could see that he is genuinely happy to see them succeed. He doesn't steal rebounds, always makes the extra pass when it's available and generally like his teammates, unlike other guys in the league.
So there you have it. This is my observations of Tiago Splitter. Now you know either what we are getting or what we are missing out on next season. (personally I think he's coming over) In any event, Splitter is not a star player like many see him as. He could be some day, maybe, but he isn't there right now. The comparison that everyone seems to be making between him and Anderson Varejao I think is inaccurate. Forgive me Spurs fans but I would have to say that Tiago Splitter is a less skilled version of Tim Duncan. Yup, I said it. The reason I say this is because he has the same "boring" style that Tim does. He doesn't try to do to much, and he has the fundamentals down. Call him "The little Fundamental" if you will but that's how I see him. Regardless of whether he's a star or not, he's certainly the best big we've ever had next to Tim since The Admiral left. Easily. It will be fun to see him on the team.
Here are the links to a couple videos of him plus the only one on youtube I could find: http://acbtv.acb.com/video/2888