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Tiago Splitter trade makes signing LaMarcus Aldridge possible

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The Spurs needed to move Splitter's contract to have a shot at Aldridge but there's more work to do.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs have agreed to trade Tiago Splitter to the Hawks without taking any salary back, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.

Splitter was reportedly on the block since the draft but the Spurs were moving carefully then and turned down several offers, likely because they meant taking salary back. The compensation they will get from the Hawks will be a future pick or the rights to a stashed player, meaning Splitter's salary will be completely removed from the Spurs cap sheet.

This is a great get for the Hawks, by the way, even if it costs them a pick. Splitter is a clear upgrade over Pero Antic and Elton Brand and his presence will allow Atlanta to have a killer big man rotation. Splitter, the newly re-signed Paul Millsap and Al Horford, with Mike Muscala sopping up the remaining minutes has enough versatility to hurt most Eastern teams. Splitter has only one year in his contract after next season and it declines in monetary value, which means Atlanta will retain cap flexibility. It's a great get.

For the Spurs there likely won't be any great return but the trade puts them in a fantastic position to be able to create cap room for a max contract for LaMarcus Aldridge.

So let's explore the ramifications of the move.

Here's how the depth chart looks like without taking into account free agents except for Duncan, who will likely return.

Point guard: Tony Parker - Patty Mills

Shooting guard: Danny Green - Reggie Williams (not guaranteed contract)

Small forward: Kawhi Leonard - Kyle Anderson

Power forward: Boris Diaw

Center: Tim Duncan

The Spurs are clearly thin up front but they met with LaMarcus Aldridge already and they are considered front runners to land him. Penciling in Aldridge as the starting power forward still leaves a hole at backup center but that's a small concern right now.

Let's see how the numbers look, including Ginobili's cap hold, since he hasn't been renounced, and Joseph's cap hold. I'm assuming Marco Belinelli, who has been in the Pelicans' and Warriors' radar, will move on, as well as Aron Baynes, who didn't receive a qualifying offer.

Players Cap hit
Tim Duncan (cap hold) $15,542,169
Tony Parker $13,437,500
Manu Ginobili $10,500,000
Boris Diaw $7,500,000
Danny Green (cap hold) $7,647,500
Kawhi Leonard (cap hold) $7,235,148
Cory Joseph (cap hold) $5,058,153
Patty Mills $3,578,947
Reggie Williams (non guaranteed) $1,185,784
Kyle Anderson $1,142,879
Roster spot charge $525, 093
Roster spot charge $525, 093
Total $73,878,266

Until they deal with Duncan and Ginobili the Spurs are still over the cap. Duncan has been rumored to be ready to sign for $6 million and Ginobili could be renounced and be brought back with the room exception. With Duncan at that salary, Cory Joseph and Manu Ginobili renounced and Reggie Williams waived, here's how the cap situation looks.

Players Cap hit
Tony Parker $13,437,500
Boris Diaw $7,500,000
Danny Green (cap hold) $7,647,500
Kawhi Leonard (cap hold) $7,235,148
Tim Duncan $6,000,000
Patty Mills $3,578,947
Kyle Anderson $1,142,879
Roster spot charge $525, 093
Roster spot charge $525, 093
Roster spot charge $525, 093
Roster spot charge $525, 093
Roster spot charge $525, 093
Total $49,167,439
Plus Aldridge max $67,542,346
Minus Mills' contract  (plus roster charge) $64,488,492

The Spurs are still short of max contract cap room but they could get there by trading Patty Mills or Kyle Anderson without taking salary back. The problem is they would lack depth.

Point guard: Tony Parker (Patty Mills)

Shooting guard: Danny Green - Manu Ginobili*

Small forward: Kawhi Leonard - (Kyle Anderson)

Power forward: LaMarcus Aldridge - Boris Diaw

Center: Tim Duncan

*Room exception

The Spurs would have to fill out the roster using the three million they have left after trading Mlls for nothing and then use minimum contracts. They could also trade Anderson and only sign players to the veterans' minimum. They need at least one more rotation-caliber big and a back up wing and have reportedly showed interest in veterans Carlos BoozerCaron Butler and Tayshaun Prince along with Lance Thomas.

It's possible they are planning to trade Patty Mills while bringing at least one cheaper player in return for him. As long as the salary they take in for Patty is around $2.5 million, they should still have room to offer Aldridge the max. If Anderson is the one to go, they need to trade him without taking any salary back. A third option would be to sign Joseph to the qualifying offer and trade Mills for nothing but that seems unlikely.

*   *   *   *   *

The trade sending Splitter to the Hawks was of huge help as far as clearing up cap space goes but the Spurs will need to make other moves before being able to sign Aldridge. That likely involves losing one of Anderson or Mills and renouncing Ginobili, hopefully only to bring him back for the room exception.

With new contracts already agreed upon for Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, a successful meeting with Aldridge and Splitter's salary off the books, the free agency period could not have started better for San Antonio. Let's hope it ends well.

All the numbers courtesy of Basketball Insiders. Please bear in mind that these are all estimates.

This article has been amended to correct a mistake regarding roster spot charges. Hat tip to long time reader RamblingSpur