Tiago Splitter, Patty Mills are breakout candidates according to Tom Ziller

By Quixem Ramirez

Apr. 25, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns center (15) Robin Lopez defends against San Antonio Spurs forward (22) Tiago Splitter in the second half at the US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

It is pretty reasonable to expect the San Antonio Spurs to improve their winning proficiency this season or, at the very least, replicate their success that saw them finish first in the Western Conference last season.

That is because their core is strikingly young — the Spurs have gotten incrementally younger as they finished as the 24th oldest team last season — and could potentially improve in an environment more conducive to success than a truncated lockout season.

Their progress is expedited because Gregg Popovich excels at putting his players in the right position to succeed and because a lot of the younger players will benefit from a full training camp.

Tom Ziller of SB Nation believes Tiago Splitter and Patty Mills subscribe to this notion as he listed them as potential breakout candidates this season.

“The Brazilian has pretty impeccable per-minute numbers (16 points, 9.8 rebounds per 36), but has only     received 15.6 minutes per game from Gregg Popovich through two seasons. I don’t believe Splitter has a     reputation as a poor defender (have I missed something?), so at some point, I do think Pop will loosen     the reins and let Splitter fly.”

Ziller also refrained from listing Gary Neal and Kawhi Leonard to prevent the Spurs from completely dominating his list.

“There are actually many Spurs who are legit breakout candidates. Gary Neal is a good scorer who doesn’t     get a ton of burn, and Kawhi Leonard is, by Pop’s admission, a future star. But we’ll limit our inclusion to     Splitter and Mills, a firebolt point guard who played in just 80 games over the past two seasons but has     per-36 numbers of 17.9 points and 5.1 assists and has shot 37.6 percent on threes.”

So who do you think will breakout this season Spurs fans? Perhaps Boris Diaw’s new diet? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)