San Antonio Spurs: Where Jakob Poeltl truly ranks among NBA centers

By Jared Greenspan
San Antonio Spurs Jakob Poeltl (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
San Antonio Spurs Jakob Poeltl (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images) /
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San Antonio Spurs Jakob Poeltl (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
San Antonio Spurs Jakob Poeltl (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

San Antonio Spurs: Determining Jakob Poeltl’s overall rank

The 2021 NBA All-Star Game roster featured three players listed exclusively at center: Nikola Jokic, Nikola Vucevic, and Rudy Gobert. It also featured another four guys who play both forward and center in Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, Julius Randle, and Domantas Sabonis.

That still doesn’t feature players who just missed the cut or were coming off injury, like Karl-Anthony Towns, Bam Adebayo, and Kristaps Porzingis. We’re already at 10. And that doesn’t count the other guys putting up nightly double-doubles and serving as more dependable offensive focal points like Clint Capela, Jonas Valanciunas, Deandre Ayton, or, dare I say it, Andre Drummond.

So even if we don’t include a player like AD or Sabonis, who play most of their minutes at the four next to a larger truer center, Jakob just misses the cut.

But there is plenty of good news. First and foremost, it’s really close. Jakob’s 11.7 points per 36 minutes are relatively lower than that next tier of stars, but his 11.1 boards and 2.4 blocks per 36 are borderline elite. Throw in Jakob’s elite defensive play and 69.5 percent finishing within 5 feet of the rim, and he’s right there with that next tier of guys.

That includes Myles Turner, whose similar defensive impact for Indiana provides more spacing, as well as Kelly Olynyk, who has shined both Miami and now Houston when given the opportunity to play heavy minutes. Others who qualify for this tier include Boston’s defensive and athletic phenom Robert Williams III and Enes Kanter, who has similar scoring and rebounding prowess to those in the top 10 but falls outside of it and behind Jakob due to his defensive struggles.

Second, Jakob is a better fit than most of these guys, even in the first tier. Ethan Farina has previously written, let’s just say, a “passionate” piece highlighting why Drummond is someone the Spurs should have absolutely no interest in. Given the team’s desperate need for defense and rebounding above all else, Jakob becomes a first among equals among players at his tier and ahead of even guys like Jonas in terms of fit with the Spurs.

So not top 10 yet. But top 15 at age 25 in only his first season as a starter? The Spurs will take that in a heartbeat.

Next: Jakob's Defensive Rank