Tiago Splitter was a key cog in a Spurs machine that made it to the Finals in each of the last two seasons. Playing alongside Tim Duncan up front, Splitter was a capable defender and rebounder who was a fantastic fit in San Antonio’s overall scheme.
This year, however, was a little bit different. Splitter was dealing with a calf injury near the end of the regular season, and it bothered him in the playoffs to the point where he was largely ineffective as the Spurs were eliminated from the postseason at the hands of the Clippers.
Splitter has two more years on his deal at $8.5 and $8.25 million respectively, and with San Antonio looking to max out Kawhi Leonard, while still having cash available to chase free agents and potentially re-sign Tim Duncan, the team may look to move that contract before July’s free agency period begins.
From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:
The working assumption nonetheless persists that the Spurs, with maestro executive R.C. Buford as their offseason point man, will manufacture at least $20 million in salary-cap space this summer to go after Aldridge — or Memphis’ Marc Gasol — even if Leonard is maxed and Duncan returns.
One scenario on the personnel grapevine gaining steam is the notion that the Spurs could elect to explore the possibility of dealing away Tiago Splitter to create more financial flexibility. Splitter has two years left on his contract valued at just under $17 million and is quietly regarded as a key contributor in San Antonio given how well he fits as a frontcourt sidekick next to Duncan. But if you’re the Spurs — and if the increasingly loud rumbles about Aldridge having San Antonio as the preferred destination atop his wish list prove true — examining Splitter’s trade market might suddenly become unavoidable.
If the Spurs are able to persuade either Marc Gasol or LaMarcus Aldridge to come in free agency, then Splitter becomes an unnecessary redundancy. But even if both of those particular All-Stars choose to sign somewhere else, looking to deal Splitter may be wise if the team thinks it can replace his skill set with a younger, less-expensive option.