San Antonio Spurs: Jakob Poeltl can earn a lot of money in final games of the season

Jakob Poeltl of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Jakob Poeltl of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

This final stretch of games is going to give San Antonio Spurs center and upcoming restricted free agent Jakob Poeltl a chance to showcase his talents.

Barring an unlikely twist of fate, the San Antonio Spurs aren’t going to salvage their 22-year playoff streak when the season resumes in Orlando, FL. Still, there are going to be some great benefits to this eight-game stretch to finish out the year. Some players will benefit more than others, but the most likely player to have his future impacted by this run is center Jakob Poeltl.

A restricted free agent in the upcoming offseason, Poeltl hasn’t had much of a chance to prove that he’s a starting-quality big this year. Big Jak started in just 10 games this year, most of which came when former All-NBA center LaMarcus Aldridge was on the sideline. Now that Aldridge is confirmed to miss the remainder of the 2019-20 season, Poeltl is naturally the next man up.

Poeltl is an advanced-stats darling who protects the rim at an elite level and fills the gaps on offense. He’s a skilled rebounder, a daring shot-blocker and has a soft touch near the rim that helps him score on push-shots, baby-hooks, layups and tip-ins. He’s not a world-beater, but he’s more athletic than he gets credit for and deserves a better role moving forward.

From year three to four, Poeltl only saw a 0.1 minute per game increase and a 2.6 percent decrease in field goal percentage. That doesn’t tell the complete story as Poeltl became a better passer and decision-maker in a season that flashed growth in maturity from the 24-year-old.

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Now that Aldridge is out, it’s expected that Poeltl is going to regain the starting five spot. On one hand, that should bode well for the Spurs defensively as they have a reliable, true seven-footer dominating the paint and rejecting shots near the basket. On the other hand, it means that opposing teams are going to get a better look at Poeltl, which may entice them to throw big paydays at Poeltl in restricted free agency.

The market for centers is not great considering many teams are moving away from the traditional big man, but that’s not to say Poeltl won’t have some suitors. Rebuilding teams like the New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets have some money to play with. They might be enticed with Poeltl’s upside as a starting center and overpay to lure him from San Antonio.

The Spurs have the right to match any offer that comes, as long as they extend him a qualifying offer. San Antonio has the financial flexibility to retain him long-term, but they’ll need to play their cards right to make everything work. San Antonio has $116.7 million on the books for next year and they’ll work to avoid the luxury tax for a team that can’t make the playoffs. Therefore, re-signing Poeltl might mean sacrificing someone like Rudy Gay or Patty Mills in a cap-saving deal.

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First, we have to see what kind of results Poeltl and the Spurs finish with as the 2019-20 season comes to a hectic finish. That will be indicative of what comes next for Poeltl in silver and black