Mar 29, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) shoots over San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl (25) in the second half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs big man is a consistent force no one notices
The San Antonio Spurs suffered another tough overtime defeat on Saturday night, falling to the Indiana Pacers 139-133. That makes seven losses in the last nine games for San Antonio. There’s no doubt that the Spurs are sliding but through it all, one player has been there night after night for San Antonio.
Jakob Poeltl put together another impressive outing against Indiana. He filled up the stat sheet, recording 14 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks while shooting 50 percent from the floor. That makes four double-doubles in a row for Poeltl and is the fourth game out of the past six where he has blocked at least three shots. Even as the Spurs have struggled, Poeltl has been in a zone.
This season, Jakob has continued to build a reputation as one of the NBA’s best-kept secrets. He’s one of the best young rim protectors in the league and has quietly filled out a consistent albeit limited offensive game as well. But he’s still not on many Defensive Player of the Year projections and it feels like very few NBA consumers outside of San Antonio and Toronto know his name.
San Antonio Spurs getting overlooked is nothing new but this seems particularly undue given how well Poeltl has been playing. Here are a few reasons why it could be happening.
Poeltl provides elite but quiet defense for the San Antonio Spurs
Jakob is one of the best defensive big men in the NBA but in typical Spursian fashion, he does it in a way that hardly gets noticed. He’s rarely mentioned in the same sentences as Myles Turner and Rudy Gobert but he should be.
One of the reasons he’s not included in that category is that Poeltl doesn’t rack up blocks the way that those two do. Their impact on the game aside, forcefully rejecting shots is the quickest way to get noticed as a defender. No one cares if a player remains perfectly verticle and executes a textbook contest but if you swat a shot into the fourth row of the stands that’ll get you on ESPN in the morning.
This isn’t to say that Poeltl doesn’t block shots, he does. He’s up to 78 on the season, good enough for 6th in the NBA, but that’s not where his impact is most readily seen.
Among players who defended more than 15 shot attempts per game, Poeltl has the best defended field goal percentage by a fair margin. Opponents shoot just 41.7 percent against him. Comparatively, they shoot 42.9 percent against Gobert and 43.7 percent against Turner.
Poeltl plays elite defense but he does it his way, a way that will rarely get him mentioned on Inside the NBA but one that should be celebrated nonetheless.
Next: A low key offensive player
Mar 27, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl (25) and Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vučević (9) in a jump ball to start the game at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Jakob Poeltl slowly becoming a key part of the San Antonio Spurs offense
After their win over the Chicago Bulls a week ago, Dejounte Murray talked about how crucial it was for the San Antonio Spurs guards to involve Jakob on the offensive end of the floor. He was quick to point out how much the team relies on Poeltl for his defensive contributions so it’s only fair that they get him the touches he deserves on the other end as well.
I’m not going to try to convince you that Poeltl is some world-altering offensive force, that’s not his game. But he does quietly go about his business in an incredibly efficient way.
In the month of March, Poeltl connected on 66 percent of his field-goal attempts. A good number for a player who gets so many of his shots directly at the rim but as it was with his defense, Poeltl scores in a way that hardly gets appreciated.
So far this season, 59 percent of Poeltl’s looks have come from within three feet of the rim but he’s only dunked the ball 20 times. His low dunk numbers have been a point of frustration for Spurs fans at times. There are shots where it seems like Poeltl should have an easy opportunity to pack it in but goes for a soft layup instead, only to have the ball roll off the rim.
But then there are times where Jakob will show extraordinary touch around the rim. He’s got a nice array of floaters and hook shots, difficult shots to make, but he makes them look easy.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2021/03/12/0022000583/439/448a1d47-39a6-5147-c7fe-ae6ff6431887_1280x720.mp4
He’s not going to fly in for thunderous alley-oops or put many people on a poster but Poeltl does a great job of finding the open space on the court and letting his guards get the ball to him. It’s not the flashiest way to score by you can’t deny its effectiveness.
He’s unassuming on both ends of the floor but Jakob Poeltl is one of the best big men that very few fans outside of the San Antonio Spurs faithful seem to know about.