Many San Antonio Spurs expected Jakob Poeltl to have a big year after arriving from Toronto, but he’s had a rough start in a new environment.
DeMar DeRozan was obviously the headline-grabbing piece of the Kawhi Leonard trade, but the San Antonio Spurs also acquired a promising young center in that deal in Jakob Poeltl.
Poeltl began the season as a starter, but he hasn’t played a single minute in three of the past five games and he only got off the bench in garbage time against the Suns.
He has played just 10.5 minutes per night in those game he has appeared in. Poeltl has grabbed 3.8 rebounds per game in limited minutes, but it looks like he’s having trouble learning the Spurs’ system on both ends of the floor.
Poeltl admitted that he’s struggling compared to the other veterans on San Antonio’s roster:
“Those are like game-plan things that are automatic for a lot of guys that have been [in San Antonio] for a while,” said Poeltl, who was referring to a mistake where he left Indiana’s Bojan Bogdanovic open for a three-pointer. “I messed it up, because those are the types of things that are not automatic.”
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Gregg Popovich clearly trusts Pau Gasol much more at this point in the season despite his physical limitations on defense, and Pop has often played LaMarcus Aldridge at center with smaller lineups to avoid putting Poeltl on the floor.
Some of those lineups have been dictated by matchups, especially in their two games against the Lakers who play extremely small, but it’s still pretty shocking to see Poeltl riding the bench this often.
Poeltl has plenty of room to grow at 23 years old in his third NBA season and Popovich has a history of not trusting young players early in their careers. However, it’s concerning to see a major piece of the Kawhi Leonard trade struggle to see the floor early on.
It sounds like Poeltl needs to spend more time watching film and learning this new system to avoid making the mistakes that has caused his benching.
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Hopefully Poeltl will become much more comfortable in the Spurs’ system in the month of November and he can earn back the trust of Coach Pop.