The NBA's trade season began unofficially on December 15, and there has been plenty of chatter leading up to and following it. San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl's name has also come up in that chatter. Despite that, he remains a Spur, at least for the time being. However, an interesting hypothetical trade would see him head to Los Angeles.
In the proposed deal, the Spurs would receive Ivica Zubac, Brandon Boston Jr., and a second-round pick from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Poeltl. Zubac is the clear centerpiece of this theoretical deal, and while it's light on draft assets or young talent (sorry, Boston Jr.), Zubac keeps it from being easily dismissed.
Would a Zubac and Poeltl swap benefit both teams?
Zubac has played a bigger role for the Clippers this season, averaging 10.1 points and career highs in rebounds and blocks with 10.8 and 1.6, respectively, in nearly 30 minutes per game. Offensively, he thrives as a roll man, setting hard screens and finishing with big right-handed dunks, but he also gets buckets off post-ups, putbacks, and lobs. He's not dissimilar to Poeltl in that way, though Poeltl is still a better offensive player than Zubac.
Defensively, Zubac is an impressive shot blocker, particularly when rotating over to the weakside to cut off drives. His two-way play makes him an above-average starting center, much like Poeltl, but Zubac is a couple of years younger. He is also on an affordable contract that will pay him an average of $11 million over the next two seasons. Poeltl, in my opinion, is superior to Zubac, but given his age and contract, they are comparable assets.
Still, based on a report by Spurstalk's LJ Ellis, the Spurs prefer to keep Poeltl around for the long term, barring an offer in which they receive two first-round picks. That goes against what most fans assumed since he's four years older than Keldon Johnson and at least five years older than other recent Spurs first-round picks. That said, he's only 27 and is really good, and the team already has plans for how they could use him if they land the number one pick in the NBA draft.
Poeltl could be a long term Spurs piece
The Clippers sending out a second-round pick in this trade, likely a bad one at that, isn't going to dissuade the Spurs from those plans. If they included a lightly protected 2026 first, then it would be a different story. However, receiving no firsts in exchange for Poeltl would certainly be a deal breaker, even if Zubac is a comparable player.
For the Clippers' part, they are likely fine with Zubac, and they would probably say no to what can be seen as a lateral move for another starting center. The Clippers would also have to re-sign Poeltl this summer, presumably to a contract worth around $15 million a season. Considering how much they already have to pay in luxury tax, that would be a no-go, especially having to give up assets for the privilege.
Overall, I'd give the trade proposal a C. A trade centered around Poeltl for Zubac is interesting, but the Clippers have no reason to do that deal, and the Spurs would need much more than that to part with Poeltl.