Considering that he’s a restricted free agent in the 2020 offseason, San Antonio Spurs need to ponder how much is too much for center Jakob Poeltl.
Playing time has been hard to come by for San Antonio Spurs backup center Jakob Poeltl, who hits the restricted free agency market in 2020. Sitting in the shadows of a former All-Star playing considerably well for his age in LaMarcus Aldridge, Poeltl has been forced to kick back and soak in as much knowledge as possible without ample opportunity to apply it on the court.
Even so, the Spurs control his future as his restricted status means the team can match any offer he receives in the open market. If he doesn’t sign a new contract with the Spurs or receive any offers he’s willing to accept, he can take the qualifying offer and return for one year and try again next summer.
Poeltl is an impressive player, combining size and instinct as a considerable two-way talent that hugely impacts his team’s success as a rim defender. Poeltl’s best skills are his screening, shot-blocking, on-ball defense near the basket and rim-running, which aren’t traits that get players paid all that much these days. On the highest level of this archetype, players like Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert will get paid handsomely with max or near-max deals, but teams are wary to hand these out to bigs in a league that emphasizes floor spacing so heavily.
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By all accounts, Poeltl is an analytics darling. He posted a 7.7% block percentage, a defensive box plus/minus (DBPM) of 2.3 and shot 60% from the floor. Only four players in NBA history have had seasons like this in at least 900 minutes—Hassan Whiteside in the 2015-16 season, Mitchell Robinson last year and JaVale McGee next year.
The only person to compare him with is McGee since Robinson is on his rookie contract and Whiteside’s 15-16 season was largely unprecedented. The veteran center signed a two-year, $8.2 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers in the offseason, making him the sixth-highest paid player on his team.
Poeltl ranks 10th amongst qualifying centers in opponent field goal percentage from inside eight-feet from the basket, holding them to 54 percent in the most efficient zone in the sport. This is an impressive statistic that places him above the likes of Rudy Gobert, Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis.
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One player to draw a comparison to is LA Clippers center Ivica Zubac, who holds opponents to 53.5 percent from within eight feet from the basket. This past offseason, he signed a three-year, $21 million contract that’ll pay him $7,518,518 in the final guaranteed year with an option to bring him back at the same price in the 2022-23 season.
This is around the zone that I think is likely for Poeltl, which would be an absolute steal for the Spurs. Let’s say Poeltl signs for three years, $24 million for an average of $8 million per season. The 24-year-old would make approximately 2.13 times as much money as he’s making now in the final season of his rookie deal and would become the sixth-highest paid player on the roster.
Comparable big men who’ve earned deals in this range include Thomas Bryant, Taj Gibson, Davis Bertans and Aron Baynes as well as the aforementioned Zubac. Bryant specifically signed a three-year, $25 million deal that’ll net him between $8 million and $8.67 million annually.
Anything over $10-11 million per season is getting pricy for Poeltl because of where the NBA is at today, but overpaying for him might be better than letting him walk for nothing.