The LaMarcus Aldridge Sweepstakes just got a lot more interesting.
According to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the San Antonio Spurs have shipped center Tiago Splitter to the Atlanta Hawks. After re-signing Danny Green to a reasonable four-year, $40-million contract, Gregg Popovich’s squad now has the space to go after Aldridge.
It’s mostly a salary dump for San Antonio, but exact details on what the Spurs are getting in return is unknown at this point.
But first, here’s everything you need to know about the latest trade.
1. Splitter Spent 5 Seasons With the Spurs
A late first-round pick in the 2007 NBA draft, Splitter remained in Spain before joining the Spurs in 2010. In five seasons, he has started 151 games, averaging 8.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 0.6 blocks in 19.8 minutes per contest.
While those numbers are a bit underwhelming, Splitter has proven to be a valuable piece on a consistent title contender. He is a rock-solid interior defensive presence and rebounder, averaging 9.6 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.1 blocks per 36 minutes for his career.
2. The Spurs Are Freeing up Cap Space to go After LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the most sought-after free agents on the market, and the Spurs have long been considered a major player for his services. As Wojnarowski notes, this move, along with Wednesday morning’s re-signing of Danny Green, adds firepower to the Spurs’ pitch:
One of the best power forwards in the game, Aldridge averaged a career-high 23.4 points and 10.2 rebounds last season. He has already met with the Los Angeles Lakers, but Wojnarowski cites sources saying that meeting didn’t go well for the Lake Show.
San Antonio may have moved into the driver’s seat.
3. Splitter Has 2 Years Left on His Contract
In the last two years on his deal, Splitter is set to make a little more than $16 million before becoming a free agent at the age of 31. As soon as this deal was made, it was apparent Atlanta wouldn’t be able to retain both DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap, and that prediction soon came to fruition:
With Atlanta’s need for a boost on the interior–it was 13th in the NBA in opponent field-goal percentage at the rim last season–the addition of Splitter is important:
Millsap is rumored to be deciding between the Hawks and Orland Magic, who have both offered max contracts. The addition of Splitter gives Atlanta a bit of frontcourt insurance should Millsap also sign elsewhere.
4. Hawks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer Was a Long-Time Spurs Assistant
A move involving these teams isn’t all that surprising, as Budenholzer and Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich have a long-standing relationship. Budenholzer worked on San Antonio’s staff from 1996 through 2013 before being hired by the Hawks.
Not only did that relationship likely help these teams strike a deal, but it’s an indication Budenholzer, who runs a similar system to Pop’s, will know how to best utilize Splitter.
5. The Trade Can’t Be Official Until July 9
ESPN’s Marc Stein provides details on that front:
Why July 9? Because that’s when the moratorium for signing contracts is lifted.