Splitter: The Difference

If you're a Spurs fan, then you know your team will soon need some fresh talent. And if you're a pretty serious Spurs fan, then you'll know that your team has the rights to talented Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter. If you're even more serious though, you'll know that Splitter has a big deal with Spain's Tau Ceramica, and as the Spurs can only pay him rookie scale, Splitter may have a hard time affording a transition to the NBA.

Hence, the conundrum.

However, if you're a really really really serious Spurs fan, like Timothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell, then you may something that most people don't know. (I bet some NBA agents and front office people don't know this.)

There's a provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that lets a team pay an imported player more than rookie scale if he has been drafted and playing professionally outside the NBA for at least three years.

Which would seem to imply that in the summer of 2010, the Spurs will be able to pay Splitter something approximating a market-value contract, assuming they have room under the cap. (At the moment, beyond 2010 the team only has contracts with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, to go with team options on George Hill and Ian Mahinmi.)

Here's the provision of the CBA:

Section 2. Rookie Contracts for Later-Signed First Round Picks.
Except as provided in Section 3 below, a First Round Pick who does not sign with the Team that holds his draft rights for any portion of the three (3) Seasons following the NBA Draft in which he was selected (and who did not play intercollegiate basketball during such period) may enter into either (a) a Rookie Scale Contract in accordance with Section 1 above, or (b) if the Team has Room in excess of the applicable first-year Rookie Scale Amount, a Contract covering no fewer than three (3) Seasons that provides for Salary plus Unlikely Bonuses in the first Salary Cap Year up to the amount of the Team's Room and increases or decreases in Salary and Unlikely Bonuses in subsequent Salary Cap Years in accordance with Article VII, Section 5(c)(1).

Read Varner's entire post, where he further points out that Splitter's Spanish club has lost its sponsorship, which would seem to increase the chances that an infusion of cash, coupled with a cutting of payroll, might appeal.