Tiago Splitter is reportedly expected to make his season debut tomorrow at home against the Atlanta Hawks after nursing a right calf injury sustained in training camp. For the San Antonio Spurs, this means the team will get a much-needed defensive boost.
While many San Antonio fans know Tiago Splitter provides a defensive presence that many Spurs big men can’t match, sans Tim Duncan, the question that is often less answered is how much extra of a defensive edge does the Brazilian big man offer? How quantifiable is Splitter’s added defensive presence?
Tiago Splitter appeared in 59 games for the San Antonio Spurs last season, starting in 50 of those. During the 2013-2014 NBA season, Splitter averaged 8.2 points and 6.2 rebounds in 21.5 minutes.
Although those numbers don’t scream defensive monster, especially his low 0.5 blocks per game last season, a look behind those same numbers reveals a different, more positive story.
During the games Tiago Splitter appeared in, San Antonio was a plus 0.9% in offensive rebounding percentage, a plus 1.9% in block percentage, and a plus 8.3 in defensive rating when the center was on the court.
Those are not the only categories the Spurs received in a boost in, however.
A look at the table above reveals that Tiago Splitter improved a whole host of defensive related categories for the San Antonio Spurs, the most glaring improvements being in defensive rating (offensive rating for opponent), creating opponent turnovers, and the block percentage as mentioned above.
Splitter’s ability to block shots and create havoc in the passing lanes will sorely help the Spurs who struggled defensively to start the season.
While it appears San Antonio has played decently on the defensive side of the ball, evident by their low opponent’s scoring average (97 ppg), the truth is that the Spurs are struggling defensively when compared to other teams in the NBA.
Known for their great defense, the San Antonio Spurs find themselves 22nd out of 30th in the association in defensive rating through the first week of action.
Getting Tiago Splitter back on the court will surely improve that number, as shown by the numbers above.
Outside of Tim Duncan, San Antonio’s only defensive-minded big men are Aron Baynes and Splitter. Even with Baynes’ impressive 2014 FIBA World Cup run over the summer, it is impossible to say as to whether the Australian big man can provide great defensive efforts night in and night out.
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Baynes still has not proved himself in the NBA yet, making Splitter the Spurs’ only legitimate defensive presence outside of Duncan. With Duncan continuing to battle father time, Splitter’s defensive stability becomes even more important.
Splitter will definitely improve San Antonio’s defense, that was known, but the question as to how much seems to have been answered somewhat. The 6-foot-11 big man will provide shot-blocking and effort that the Spurs are in desperate need of down low.
All we can say is, it’s good to have Tiago back!
What kind of impact do you think Tiago Splitter will have defensively for the San Antonio Spurs? Let us know in the comments!