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Why a healthy Tiago Splitter matters to the Hawks

While Tiago Splitter’s health is somewhat unclear right now, the big man adds a lot of value for Atlanta.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Tiago Splitter was almost an afterthought last year. Plagued by injuries that eventually ended his season, the Brazilian big man only played 36 games during the 2015-16 season. There are still lingering questions about his health today, although he seems to be recovering well.

It may not seem obvious, especially after last season, but Splitter brings a lot of value to the Atlanta Hawks. Despite his age and offensive liabilities, Splitter is a valuable bench player on a good contract.

At this point in his career, Splitter is a known quantity. He is relatively limited offensively, but can play defense and rebound effectively, ensuring his status as a solid role player. While he won’t provide much scoring off the bench, his prowess in these other areas ensures his value.

There is also something else about Splitter that is easy to overlook: the Hawks got him for a very low price (a protected second-round pick) because of San Antonio’s salary cap situation in 2015. When you add the fact that he is playing on a very reasonable (in this cap environment) contract for only $8.5 million this season, Splitter’s presence on the roster looks even better.

Splitter is also an important piece because of the Hawks’ system. Mike Budenholzer is famous for not overplaying players, and since the team’s primary center — Dwight Howard — is in his 30’s, this should be almost doubly true. If Tiago Splitter is healthy, he will receive plenty of playing time.

None of these attributes will matter if Splitter can’t play significant minutes this season, though, and his durability is very much in question after last season. At age 31, his age is certainly beginning to show, and those concerns weren’t alleviated during his debut campaign. In his absence, it isn’t clear who would fill his minutes, though the preseason will probably determine who falls next in the depth chart between Kris Humphries, Edy Tavares and Mike Muscala.

However, given his recover thus far, it seems reasonable to be at least cautiously optimistic about Tiago Splitter’s health right now. A new injury, or an old flare-up of an existing one, could easily derail this, but there haven’t been any meaningful setbacks so far.

Atlanta’s injury situation this training camp has been unsettling to say the least, with Dennis Schröder and Paul Millsap both missing time. These two players have been drawing the most attention, and rightfully so. As valuable as Splitter is, Schröder and Millsap are each far more crucial to this team’s chances this year.

If Splitter is fully healthy, though, Atlanta will have a valuable role player coming off the bench who was mostly unavailable last season. Whether serving as a key defensive piece or providing necessary rest for Howard, Splitter could play a big role with the Hawks this year.