After another early playoff exit, the San Antonio Spurs will tweak the roster over the summer. Chances are their main priority will be to convince Tiago Splitter to come over to the Spurs to address the glaring need for a quality center to play along side Tim Duncan.
In the playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, it was clear Duncan needed help patrolling the paint. The Suns took advantage and Spurs fans saw Steve Nash and even Goran Dragic get to the rim with ease. Considering there was no weak-side help defense.
Antonio McDyess and DeJuan Blair did what they could do but it wasn't enough. To get over the hump, the Spurs will need a legit big man beside Duncan in the post. Enter Splitter.
Splitter would be a nice fit. He is young, at 25 years old, and his experience from international competition should help his transition into the NBA less difficult. Not to mention he was named the 2009-2010 ACB MVP which speak volumes about his ability to play the game.
But there is on huge question: will he opt to stay overseas and look for a pay-day or will he realize his dream and play in the NBA?
With the Spurs over the salary-cap, the team will be salary-conscious and will probably offer Splitter the mid-level exemption which is about 5.85 million. But will that be enough to lure him to play in San Antonio? Getting Splitter doesn't necessarily mean the Spurs will be back in the title hunt, nor will it solve all the Spurs' issues but it does address an immediate concern.
Splitter can provide the Spurs more size in the paint, another scoring option in the post, and a defensive boost to their aging and undersized front-court. If that happens, the Spurs will have a front-court rotation of Duncan, Splitter, McDyess and Blair which looks very good on paper.
However, Duncan not only needs a "side kick" in the paint, he will also need more rest to stay efficient and effective. Blair has proven he can provide meaningful minutes while Duncan rests but he is too undersized against most bigs in the league which creates match-up problems. McDyess can still defend and hit the occasional jumpers but at 35 years old, he will need to reserve his energy for the post-season play.
Aside from Splitter, the Spurs need yet another big-man who can fill in some minutes for the Spurs. So what about Ian Mahinmi?
Laugh if you must (I don't blame you) but know I'm fully aware Mahinmi has not lived up to expectations during his time with the Spurs. He is injury prone and when he finally plays, he can't seem to stay out of foul trouble. Not to mention the Spurs did not pick up the final year of his contract.
I get it! He hasn't given Spurs fans reasons to want him back in a Spurs uniform next season but hear me out.
He has yet to realize his potential and has the tools to be a good NBA player. He is long and athletic, can run the floor well and block shots. He is also agile for his size and still young at 23 years old.
It may seem that the Spurs have waited long enough for Mahinmi to show he was worth being drafted but the reality is, he has only played a total of 32 games in his NBA career averaging 3.8 points and 1.8 rebounds while shooting 61.2% from the field and 71.4% from the free throw line in just 5.9 minutes of playing time.
Granted, most of those minutes came when the game was already decided but it still shows some hope he can get it together and play. Another off-season of hard work in the gym might do wonders for Mahinmi. Also, more self-confidence, a little more knowledge on how to play the right way and of course a little more playing time certainly will help. If Blair and Mahinmi can provide 25-30 minutes of productive minutes between them, it will help a lot in giving Duncan and his aching knees much needed rest. If the Spurs can re-sign Mahinmi on the cheap, don't you think they should do it?
If Splitter plays out well, assuming he comes to play for the Spurs next season, the Spurs will have the luxury of giving the Duncan the night off during the second sets of back-to-backs. This will make the Spurs a better team in the long run.
What do you guys think? Is Splitter enough to solve the Spurs' front-court issues? Does Mahinmi deserve a legitimate chance to prove he can play with the Spurs or is there another free-agent big man worth considering in the coming off-season? Share us your thoughts.