Heading into his second year with the San Antonio Spurs, center Jakob Poeltl has the potential to be a pivotal member of a winning team.
After a crazy month full of vacations and summer classes, I’m back once again with another edition of the “Goals for the Offseason” series. This time, I’ll be covering an unsung hero for the silver and black – Austrian center Jakob Poeltl.
Throughout this series, I’ve shown how these are improvements and goal on-court that can be worked on in the offseason. For Jak, this is an entirely different game. Expecting 18 points and 14 boards from a sixth or seventh scoring option is a little more than ridiculous. Circumstances included, I can’t expect him to just be Karl-Anthony Towns or Al Horford, but for him to be successful in the NBA, he doesn’t need to be all that.
Don’t expect me to come out and say “BE STEVEN ADAMS RIGHT NOW” while ignoring this current Spurs roster and situation – that wouldn’t be fair. Although that’s the type of player that I believe he very well could be at age 26. Adding that, this will be a different tone of article.
The seven-footer had a very solid second half of his season for the Spurs as he played a very important role once Pau Gasol got hurt and bought out. While his base numbers were down in 2018-19, (PTS, REB, AST, etc.) the impact he made went further than what you’d expect.
Posting better DRTG & ORTG’s and having better advanced stats all across the board, he definitely grew for the better this season once the playing time started to roll in. Starting games much more consistently from the month of January onward, he provided many things this Spurs team direly needed. Stout rim protection, great P&R defense, basketball IT and finishing at the rim, and most importantly, he took Pau’s minutes! Just joking, no disrespect, but he was a very big upgrade in that department as solid yet raw, rising center.
His work this past season will go unappreciated and unnoticed. The fact that he’s good enough to start, push LaMarcus Aldridge back to his natural power forward position that he’s more comfortable playing at while bringing back a bit of that defensive anchor the Spurs needed was invaluable. Whether he’s in a play or not, Poeltl always makes an impact. He’s been the solid glass cleaner that the Spurs have been missing since Tiago Splitter departed. While I have very high hopes for this man, you can see there’s some things I’d like to see in Fall, 2019 that we unfortunately didn’t see come into play this past season.
Next: Free throws & bringing out his athleticism on O
Free throws & bringing out his athleticism as a scorer
Jakob shot 53 percent from the field last season – not exactly so hot. While not having a high volume of attempts, and some being off and-one’s, it’s got to get better. Jak doesn’t have a bad shooting stroke, in my opinion. After watching his scouting and workout tapes, he actually has a rhythm down that doesn’t look forced or like a project.
As I said in the opener, he is a great finisher at the rim. At one point in the season, he was finishing over 75 percent of his attempts at the rim. With that said, the free throw shooting has got to get up there.
He possesses natural athleticism but doesn’t use it too often. I understand that San Antonio has a complex system, and he’s not a top scoring option for this team. With that said, this is something we might see more often this season and for some to come. Pick-and-roll with DeMar DeRozan and Derrick White was fantastic last season, but that is about as much we saw of Jak on the offensive end.
After watching tape of his play in college, Toronto and San Antonio, he can really move well in the half court and especially in transition. He is a little stiff at times but is very capable of a 16-foot pump and drive to the basket. There were times where his quick first step and ability to get a good look at the basket was on display throughout the season.
On one play in particular in Game 6 against Denver, he caught a pass from Derrick, sealed off Plumlee, drove down the lane with a little pass-fake to DeMar and went up for the left-handed layup. He missed the shot, but that’s a start and a showing that he’s more than capable of a player whose mobility isn’t a question. Even with the miss, Filayyyy could’ve made a compilation of that one clip on repeat.
That being said, he finishes very well most of the time. Even in the post he shows a nice touch and can get into rhythm with a turn-around fadeaway jumper or a quick hook. He is more of a big from the nineties than a 2019 big, but as many centers do nowadays, players learn from experience – especially as the game evolves.
When you look at some games from Jakob this year against teams with a two-big set or even just one prominent center, he matched up very well. Against the combo of both Deandre Jordan and Mitchell Robinson of the Knicks, Jak put up a solid 12-point, 9-rebound, 5-block performance on 85.7 percent shooting from the field.
Against Detroit he put up 11 points, 14 boards and three blocks while making two thirds of this field goal attempts. Lastly, he put up 14 points, eight boards and three blocks on 83 percent shooting as the Spurs’ fifth scoring option at most.
He was impressive and the bulk of his points were gathered by cleaning up the glass of the AT&T Center or from the lovely couple named “pick-and-roll.” A limited offensive output while maintaining efficiency most likely means that with greater volume, a player like Jakob can easily translate to more consistent play on that offense.
I’m not saying he is worthy of 20 shots per game, but he’s certainly proven himself worthy of some extra touches. As he might transition to the bench if we see a Dejounte Murray/Derrick White lineup that would push Aldridge to the 5, Jakob would receive more opportunity with the second unit.
Next: Letting the game come naturally
Letting the game come naturally
This is something that will get better this coming season, but it will be important to watch him become a more instinctual player this season. Jakob. at times. seemed too quick to pass the ball. – a little too quick in terms of decision making.
One play in particular that stuck out most was during Game Six against Denver. In the third quarter, Jak caught a pass from DeRozan and immediately looked to feed Aldridge. He took one dribble towards Aldridge, who was double-teamed, and he picked the ball up. That caused Nikola Jokic to reach his arm out and swipe the ball, forcing a turnover.
Whether it be forcing a pass, committing to a play and re-thinking it, or just basically growing pains and not being entirely comfortable in this system just yet, Poeltl has a way to go. I know a lot of this due to his lack of experience, but in year two, a major goal for him it to let the game come to him.
A ton of young players struggle with once their playing time gets ramped up. Poeltl didn’t look entirely comfortable with going out and playing his game early in the season. He stuck to his role, and I applaud him for it, but I’m sure in season two, the Spurs will want more out of him and less tweaks to take place this. Adding to that, he didn’t look entirely confident in his ability to handle the ball or even attempt a shot that wasn’t inwards of five feet.
I understand the Spurs system, but in games where the unit as getting blown out, Jakob didn’t look very assertive. I’m sure there’s more to it, but I think he has a ton of talent that hasn’t been shown off yet. I’ve literally seen him take someone off the dribble before! He has a high release point, it isn’t an ugly J. He definitely is more dynamic than just a put-back specialist. He can offer more, and I’m sure it’s something he works on daily.
Next: Closing thoughts
These two things are most important to me by far. I put this above everything, because context included, this is what could benefit him most in the silver & black and is best for his future in the NBA. My personal thoughts on him is I genuinely think he can be a defensive anchor that can give you an easy 13 points, 9 boards and two blocks consistently.
I think his ceiling as a player, the player he can most compare to, and fit towards is Steven Adams. At 26-years-old, Adams is a defensive anchor who is great in pick-and-roll. He holds a very similar play style, except Adams is jacked like Aquaman and Jak hasn’t filled out yet.
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Yes, that needs to improve too, but I’m fat so I’m not judging someone else’s weight. I think he’s more athletic than Steven, though. Some might say that’s a brick of a hot take, but after watching the two, I think they are very similar.
I think Jakob’s footwork on both ends is pretty solid and defensively, he is very sound. Poeltl is such a smart player – even when he’s beat, he’s never out of a play. His rebounding is really good too and has shown to be more than a mid-level passer.
He could be an A-level bench player and a B-/B level starter at his peak. He definitely is raw, but as a seven-foot center, the news of San Antonio legend Timmy Duncan becoming an assistant coach, you’re almost guaranteed to be learning from this elite talent day-in and day-out.
Until next time, please order your steak medium rare, and Go Spurs Go!