Should Celtics Target Tiago Splitter?


According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the San Antonio Spurs are in pursuit of prized-free agent forward, LaMarcus Aldridge. Tim Duncan has allegedly agreed to take a pay-cut in order to create the necessary amount of cap space to sign both Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard to max contracts.

The Spurs will then likely forego a Danny Green contract extension as the Spurs shooting guard is entering free-agency and will likely fetch a price the Spurs cannot match with two max-contracts in the books. Another player who may become a casualty of this acquisition is center Tiago Splitter.

With $8.5 million owed to Splitter next year, the Spurs may need to move him to free up the requisite cap room to re-sign the team’s core, in which case, teams in need of a center will be persistent in their pursuit of Splitter. Marc Stein has stated that several teams have in fact already contacted the Spurs attempting to engage in trade talks regarding Splitter.

To this point, the Spurs have rejected every offer and appear to be exercising due diligence, as the Spurs must lock-up Aldridge before they can seriously pursue a Splitter deal.

As a serviceable rim protector, Splitter’s impact would be immensely beneficial for the Celtics if Ainge was to acquire him via trade. While Splitter only averaged 0.7 blocks per game (1.3 blocks/game per-36) last season, his defensive impact isn’t conveyed accurately on the stat sheet, but rather through sheer wins. While the Spurs had a +/- of +6.8 with Splitter off the floor, that number rose to +11.6 with him playing.

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The Celtics will likely need to send the Spurs either a draft pick or prospect(s). One trade that works, at least according to ESPN’s Trade Machine (which hasn’t been updated in months): is Olynyk and Jerebko for Splitter. Celtics fans may deem this trade may be one-sided in the Spurs’ favor, however, 7’0″ centers with rim protection fetch a high price due to their scarcity.

The trade would be mutually-beneficial considering the Spurs would save $3 million in cap space, while adding depth in their front court. The Celtics, meanwhile, would finally acquire a center with a semblance of rim protection. Splitter would likely play a similar role with the Celtics as he currently does with the Spurs: the designated center in big rotations, while the designated towel-waver in small ball lineups (see Splitters contributions during Spurs’ annihilation of the Miami Heat in 2013).

Although Splitter is already 30 years old, his NBA mileage is limited, as the Spurs’ stashed him for three years after drafting him in 2007.

Once the Spurs are confident that they can sign Aldridge, Splitter’s name will begin popping up in the rumor mill. With Aldridge on board, it wouldn’t make sense for the Spurs to pay Splitter $8.5 million to ride the bench, when they have much cheaper options in Aron Baynes and Jeff Ayres capable of doing just that. On a final note, a frontcourt composed of Duncan and Aldridge would be very interesting as both players are well-rounded enough to make the duo a Top-5 front court in the NBA.