If the San Antonio Spurs need to replace Jakob Poeltl these players could help
Earlier this week San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl put Spurs fans and the front office on notice with the announcement that he would be interested in looking at other options this summer as he plans out the next steps in his career.
Poeltl has been with the Spurs for two seasons now and has emerged into an advanced stats darling on the defensive end. This year he led the team in total win shares per 48 minutes, total box plus minutes, and was third in VORP. But from Poeltl’s recent remarks we can gather that he’s frustrated that his playing time hasn’t increased in any substantial way.
Despite being one of the most valuable players on the team, Poeltl didn’t see a meaningful change in his minutes from year one to year two in San Antonio. In his first season with the Spurs, he was averaging 16.5 minutes per night and he averaged a similar 16.6 minutes per contest this season. For perspective, Marco Belinelli played 15 minutes per night this year. No wonder Poeltl is frustrated.
The San Antonio Spurs can match whatever offer Poeltl gets this summer and it will be interesting to see what that might be. Pure centers with his impact are valuable but don’t command quite as much on the free-agent market as they used to. Given his offensive limitations, it wouldn’t be surprising if the offers he gets are lower than some might expect.
That said, there is a figure out there that the Spurs simply wouldn’t want to match. If that’s the case then letting Poeltl walk might be right move from a financial standpoint, no matter how difficult it may be to stomach.
If the Spurs do come to a point where they have to find a replacement for Poeltl in their lineup these players could be a potential fit.
Next: A former Spur
Aaron Baynes could help the San Antonio Spurs
Since helping the San Antonio Spurs capture their most recent title in 2014, Aron Baynes has gone from Detroit to Boston to now filling in a solid role with the Phoenix Suns. He still gets dunked on a fair amount but that hasn’t deterred him from playing the same hard-nosed style that he did when he first came into the league with the Spurs.
More importantly, Baynes has taken massive steps forward in his offensive versatility and has proven that he can change his game to adapt to the modern NBA. There was a point earlier this year while Deandre Ayton was sitting out his suspension that the Suns were thriving and people were wondering if they’d be better off starting Baynes over Ayton. That was a real conversation that was being had! Okay, so it was mostly on NBA subreddits but still, it’s baffling to even think that.
To Baynes’s credit, there were a few games where he was incredibly impressive. In one game he joined James Harden as the only players in the league to record 35 points, 15+ rebounds, and 9 3-pointers in a single game. Yes, you read that right, James Harden and Aron Baynes were side by side in a wonky stat line, 2020 has truly been wild.
It wasn’t just a one-game fluke either, Baynes shot a respectable 35 percent from behind the arc this year. That’s an impressive rate for a guy who had hardly ever stretched his game out past the 3-point line before this season.
He will be an unrestricted free agent this year and made just a hair over $5.3 million this season. The Suns will almost certainly try to keep him around as he was a valuable player for them but if Jakob Poeltl ends up on another roster the Spurs should reach out and see if the big Aussie has any interest in coming back to the team that drafted him.
Next: A former top-ten pick
Alex Len could help the San Antonio Spurs
After being selected by the Phoenix Suns with the 5th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Alex Len has had an underwhelming but solid NBA career. He hasn’t quite lived up to the hopes that the Suns had for him when they took him with such a high pick but he’s still a solid big man who could help fill a role in the San Antonio Spurs frontcourt.
Like Baynes, Len is another big man who has gradually adapted his game to fit more of what teams are looking for from a modern big man. He hasn’t quite taken the steps forward that Baynes has but he’s working on it. He shot 36 percent from behind the arc in his final full season with the Atlanta Hawks.
He had a strange season in 2019-20 as injuries and trades disrupted the flow he had found during the ’18-19 season. He’s now playing for the Sacramento Kings and, despite testing positive for coronavirus earlier this year, plans to play in the upcoming NBA restart in Orlando.
Len was making $4.25 million this year and is approaching unrestricted free agency this summer. The San Antonio Spurs have made reclamation projects out of big men such as Trey Lyles and Dewayne Dedmon, maybe Len will see the success that those two had during their time in San Antonio, or after they left in Dedmon’s case, and be intrigued enough by the Spurs development that he would sign a lower end deal.
Like Poeltl, Len is a pure center. He doesn’t bring as much on the defensive end of the floor as Jakob does, but his floor spacing ability would allow the Spurs to run a combination of wings and guards with him in a lineup that would maximize driving lanes for the Spurs slashers. He could also theoretically play off of Trey Lyles or LaMarcus Aldridge.
It bears mentioning that despite having seven years in the league under his belt, Len is still just 26 years old. He better fits the age range of the rest of the Spurs roster than Baynes does and would likely be content with a backup role behind Aldridge.
Ideally, the San Antonio Spurs and Jakob Poeltl can come to an agreement that keeps in him San Antonio for the foreseeable future. But you can’t depend on that happening and the Spurs need to have back up plans ready, these two would be a good place to start.