Sports Illustrated sees Tiago Splitter as the 70th best player in the NBA heading into the 2014-15 season, according to its Top 100 NBA Players list.
It's difficult for someone like Splitter to rise up in the rankings because the Spurs system limits his minutes and doesn't demand that he carry much of a load on offense. In the first season of a 4-year, $36 million deal, Splitter didn't even play as much as he did in 2012-13. Along with that, nearly every stat average decreased, though just slightly.
But Splitter's 94.5 defensive rating led the league, which shows that while his stats aren't eye-popping, his presence alone makes a huge difference for the Spurs on defense. Tim Duncan is often referred to as the anchor on D, but it's obvious that team find it much more difficult to score when both big men are on the floor.
On offense, Splitter's job is mainly to play the pick-and-roll game and clean up messes in the paint, be it offensive rebounding or getting himself open to bail out the ball handler at the end of the shot clock. Defenses often lose track of Splitter after leaving him to stop one of the Spurs' other threats. A perfect example is from Game 4 of the NBA Finals that drew attention due to Boris Diaw's amazing no-look pass. Chris Bosh left Splitter on the below play to help Dwayne Wade, who was mismatched in the post with Diaw. Splitter got into position for the slick pass from Diaw to finish with a dunk.
With a player like Splitter, these individual rankings don't matter much because of the amount of sacrifice it takes to contribute for San Antonio. He's learned his role in the system and now excels at it, providing the perfect complement for what the Spurs need on both offense and defense.