The quest to find the San Antonio Spurs a starting center has been ongoing really since David Robinson retired.
First it was Rasho Nesterovic then Nazr Mohammed (with a dash of Robert Horry thrown in there) then it was Francisco Elson, then it was Fabricio Oberto then it was Kurt Thomas then it was Drew Gooden (was there some Anthony Tolliver thrown in there?) then it was Antonio McDyess, then it was DeJuan Blair, then it was Antonio McDyess again. Did I miss anyone?
Now the Spurs face another dilemma at the center spot. It looks like Antonio McDyess is retiring, probably. If so, that leaves last year's other starter, DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter - last year's big signing -and Matt Bonner, who doesn't count.
The Spurs were a better team statistically last season when DeJuan Blair started then when he came off the bench. Does that mean they would've beaten Memphis had "Grizzly" Blair been starting? Probably not. But it does mean he had found his niche with the other starters. You could also argue a young guy like Blair plays best when he's motivated and he's best motivated when he's in the starting lineup. The argument against Blair is he's 6'7" and a terrible match up for the Spurs on defense. This becomes amazingly clear when he plays the Los Angeles Lakers since they have two 7-footers and another really tall reality TV star. Also, while DeJuan actually took some jumpers last season, I always cringed when I saw his set up for a jumper. Hopefully now that he announced on Twitter that he's back to working out, working on a jump shot is something he's working on.
The argument for Tiago Splitter starting is far more conceptual because we just didn't see him all that much last season. Here's what we know.
Tiago is 6'11", mobile and always seems to be in the right place on both ends of the floor. Last season was as much about adjusting to the speed and rules of the game as anything for Splitter. Against lesser teams, he show promise. I was at the February 2 game in Sacramento where Splitter scored 16 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Almost all of Splitter points came because he knew where and how to cut to the basket for a score or because he was in the right place for a couple of offensive rebounds and put-backs. He also seemed to frustrate DeMarcus Cousins by simply moving his feet and not letting Cousins get position too low. I would also say he has better post moves than DeJuan does, but his offensive game outside 10 feet is also limited. And to be fair, DeJuan started that game and had 10 points and 12 boards.
In that aspect, Blair and Splitter aren't that dissimilar. Both are smart players, good passers and hustle on offense. While the Spurs like to have a big that can hit a 15 foot jumper on the floor with Duncan for spacing, Blair proved last season that smart bigs can be just as effective as the kind that hit jump shots.
Here's another dilemma: what if McDyess comes back next year? Does he automatically become the starting center? You have to think in his advanced age, McDyess shouldn't play more than 20 minutes a game, but which 20? Fact remains that he guards Dirk as well as any person the Spurs still have on their roster, so that's reason enough to hope he comes back in a limited role. Either way, I think having him, Blair and Kawhi Leonard coming off the bench together would at least put a little bit of hurt into the opposing teams.
To sum this winding tale up, I think Splitter should be the starting center for the Spurs next year. He's not the super athletic, shot blocker Spurs fans have been craving for years, but he gives the Spurs size in the middle that Blair and even McDyess if he comes back can provide. He'll be a better, smarter player for the Spurs next year and for several years to come.
Thoughts Spurs fans? Like the idea of Splitter starting or should the Spurs continue the quest for a legit center?
Ok, let's please stop the Dwight Howard, Deandre Jordan and Kaman talk. It will not happen. We cannot afford any of them and we do not have the trade assets to get them, why doen't we just say let's swing a 3 way deal offering Bonner and RJ for Dwight Howard and Dirk. I think are most realistic option is to try to sign Grey. Jeff Foster and McRoberts could be possible as well. Any of those guys would be an improvement on Antonio who probably shoudl retire. We need to continue to develop Splitter. He didn't get a lot of minutes. Look at the difference of George Hill in his second year. For whatever reason, Pop doesn't play rookies a lot in their first year. Blair was the only exception I remember. I think Leonard will help us on the glass as he is an excellent rebounder, especially for a 3. Hopefully Pop gives him some minutes this year. Also, we need to stop hating on Bonner. He is one of our best shooters and it is unfair to call him a center. He is a 4 at best, who is forced to play the 5 on our undersized team. Go Spurs Go!
Spurs should sign Ryan Richards get Cousins from the Toro's for cheap and maybe Lopez from the Suns or Deandre Jordan,Chris Kaman either way they need at least 2-3 bigs. In my opinion Richards could play the 3 or 4 spot with his ability to handle the ball and play the wing.
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I agree exactly. There's no reason for Duncan to continue to be the tallest player and only player above 6'10 on the team. Tiago could have been the Spurs poor man's version of Chandler last season. On offense they are limited offensive players but move well without the ball. On defense they move their feet and box out and challenge shots. As much as blocking shots appears that great challenging more shots probably is just as good or better. When you force a player to adjust his shot in mid air he's most likely going to miss.@LFJeremy
Granted it would be nice to get a god player for RJ and Matt but... The needs are not that hard to meet when you have wing talent- we do have good young SF and SG's. So we need TD- p-time, Tiago-35-40 minutes a night and a PF who can drive and pass. The Mavs, and Lakers get no where if Dirk or Lamar just shoot jumpers. Matt can't Dice can't get to the rim if closed out on. McRoberts should be looked at closely. View some video, this guy is a skilled 6'10 with hops. He plays more D than Matt. E Clark is 6'9" and is afraid to drive, and has limited handles. There are better D league guys from the Toro's. Why not Try Sean Williams from the Legends or Cousin. Its not hard to get a few bigs cheap to take the pressure off TD and Tiago.
I would love to see the spurs get chris Kamen from the clippers but i don't know what he will command in money he would be good low post scorer or maybe a guy like earl clark from the magic he is a 7 footer and we can groom him for the future
Tiago has to start. He has things you can't coach: Size, length, a high b-ball IQ and a continual motor. From what we could see of him during the year he was making the necessary adjustments to deal with the speed of the NBA and the athleticism of some NBA bigs. Tiago is exactly what we need at center at this point. He's not going to be an All-Star, but he can be a 12-14 pt; 10 reb a night guy. Over the season he showed he learned a couple of important things: First, finish hard at the rim, and second, release the shot a little higher. He's too smart and too competitive to come back the same player. The real problem imho-we need someone other than Bonner and McDyess as part of the rotation at the 4/5. Bonner is a defensive liability and still one dimensional offensively-and still disappears in the clutch. McD's just too old. He doesn't have the lateral quickness he had even when he was old and first signed with the Spurs. Somehow, if there is some team with really bad GM (David Kahn for example) who would make a dumb trade or partner with another dumb GM to make a 3 team trade work, in an ideal world, Jefferson and Bonner would both be gone and the Spurs could find a young, more athletic big who is still raw, but has upside. Blair is best as a change of pace guy and until he learns to control his weight, there are discipline issues. Ryan Richards is tremendously athletic-but he's 3-4 years from being NBA ready. He's been playing for the Brits 19 and under team against other non-basketball countries and at times playing well, at times not producing. Be patient with him. We do have potentially 6 legit Spurs playing and developing overseas right now. Their time will come. I think the big conundrum is how to improve in the post now while unloading RJ and Bonner-pull that off and you're a GM genius.
I should've made it more clear in writing that I think the Spurs still need another big guy. I also think that they have a snow ball chance in hell of getting a starting C/PF unless they can work a trade. I think you start Tiago with Tim and the big guy you sign in free agency comes off the bench with Blair or Bonner.
There is a need for center and PF. We would have no size coming off the bench unless we get 2 bigs with at least a single skill set. Blair is still a year way from learning how to play. He is a change of pace guy or rotation guy against smaller front lines. How about A Gray to come in behind Tim and McRoberts or Blair on a second unit. It is hard to play good defense now without a shot blocker. Penetration is now so easy, with the rules , that even rotations aren't often quick enough to make up for the penetration. Watching the Mavs breakdown the quick Heat defense should have shown us all something. Yes, they(Mavs) moved the ball well, but it was more the penetration that opened up passing lanes, etc Gray just clogs the paint, but against many teams, this is better than a 6'7" guy. If Pop would ever consider a Sean Williams type, we could have more easy possessions on offense , more missed rotations, but compensating shot blocks, to discourage penetraters. Spurs got blocked so much last year with athletic bigs,that many times they stopped trying to penetrate and became stagnant. On offense a guy like McRoberts will keep the defense more honest than either McD or Bonner can do.
@jojo707 Agreed! You just hit the nail's head. The offense works only when a team has good defense. This entails tall, big and young players. As observed above, blair was overmatched against the lakers and definitely against the tall and young players of the western conference. I have no doubt that splitter will improve. Still, the spurs NEED tall, big and young players. A good 6'7" player cant be compared to a 7" player even he may less talented. Basketball is a game where Height is Might.
I agree that Tiago will probably be our best center, but I think it would be better if he came off the bench with Bonner, so there's not a huge defensive drop-off. Unless the team picks up another good big (or Dice comes back), then either Tiago or Tim should be on the court at all times.
Like to see Leonard in that second unit too; with Bonner out at the 3-point line, there will be room for him to hang around the basket and use his great rebounding ability.
@ruth bader ginobili The spurs should not settle for the best center available and without doubt bonner cant play center. Last season and the grizzlies proved that. Grantng that spliiter is adequate, look at the lineup! TD is good but, come on he running 35. It takes time and patience to develop a good power forward and center. The spurs may suffer for a while but then again the return is sweet. It took 14 years before nowitski help the dallas, and chandler then is not as good as today.
@ruth bader ginobili We have seen where spurs are weakest. Mcdyess is past his prime, blair lacks the height and bonner cant guard. Splitter has not played enough games to judge his capability. With this, the spurs NEED to sign NOW tall, young,aggressive power forward and centers. Sign r.richards NOW! He may feel the need now as the spurs sees it. But if not NOW, WHEN? The past seasons show that the apurs are enamored to players 6'7" or below. They dont win games! Try the free agents market - consider k.fesenko, earl clark. If they are inadequate, t. chandler and d.notwitski are not as good then as they are now. What coaches and trainers for? Let's GO Mr. Buford/ coach POP!