The San Antonio Spurs have a decision to make at the center position, and Pau Gasol is advocating for a starting job as we near the regular season.
Four of the five starting spots for the San Antonio Spurs are pretty well locked up as we are just days away from opening night.
Dejounte Murray, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, and LaMarcus Aldridge should all hear their name called in the starting lineup before game number one against the Timberwolves, but the fifth spot is up for grabs.
Gregg Popovich could go small with Rudy Gay at the four and insert a guard like Marco Belinelli or Patty Mills in the starting lineup. However, Pop has historically started two big men and I’d expect that to continue this year.
The main question that remains is who will start in the frontcourt alongside Aldridge.
Pau Gasol started 63 games last season, and he’s able to provide some spacing on the offensive end as he’s become a very effective three-point shooter (44.2% on 1.6 attempts per game in San Antonio).
The 38-year-old veteran said that he is the best fit with the core four in the starting lineup:
“I feel like I can help DeMar, Rudy, Dejounte and L.A. get easier baskets, make that extra pass, stop the game a little bit when it needs to be stopped,” Gasol told the San Antonio Express-News. “I’m not trying to play point guard out there, but I know I have played this game for a long time and I know how to play it well.”
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The other big man option is Jakob Poeltl who was acquired from Toronto in the Kawhi Leonard trade.
The soon-to-be-23-year-old Austrian has flashed defensive brilliance in the first two years of his career as he blocked 2.4 shots per 36 minutes last season, and he is the type of high-IQ player that the Spurs love.
Popovich has praised Poeltl this preseason saying, “he’s a worker, a runner, a rebounder. He’s a good utility infielder, does a little bit of everything and does it with aggressiveness. He’s just going to get better and better.”
Poeltl provides more upside on the defensive end, but San Antonio’s spacing could be pretty tight if he starts alongside DeRozan, Aldridge and Murray, who are not known for their three-point shooting.
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Pop has normally favored veterans over young players in playing time decisions, and I’d expect him to begin the year with Pau in the starting lineup. However, Poeltl has a great chance to overtake him as he continues to earn the trust of the coaching staff.