After becoming the San Antonio Spurs' starting center last season, Jakob Poeltl proved well suited for the role and is still getting better. He even emerged as one of the league's best rim protectors, though will have to continue to develop on the offensive end to become a top 10 center in the NBA.
He's even been encouraged to be more aggressive on offense by members of the Spurs coaching staff and could show more on that end next season. Fortunately, he's steadily improved every season that he's been in the NBA and next season shouldn't be any different. With that in mind, let's take a look at three bold predictions for Poeltl next season.
Prediction 1: Improved free throw shooting
Jakob Poeltl has struggled throughout his career with free-throw shooting, though I expect him to make strides in that regard after connecting on just 50.8% of his attempts last season. He obviously has a lot of room for growth there and has been working to improve his form since last season when it started to become more of an issue.
Fortunately, he’s had a full offseason to correct his shooting form by incorporating feedback from Spurs shooting coach Chip Engelland. As a result, I believe that his free throw shooting will be drastically better next season and that he'll connect on 65% of his attempts. While hitting 65% of his free throws next season may seem unrealistic, his struggles mirror former Spurs center Tiago Splitter.
Splitter was also a poor foul shooter, hitting just 54.3% of attempts as a rookie, though shot 69.1% in his second season after working with Engelland. Poeltl’s foul shooting could see similar improvement next season with Engelland's help. While 65% would still be below league average, it appears to be a realistic goal for Poeltl and would be good enough to prevent teams from intentionally fouling him.
Were that the case, he could play more minutes, stay on the court late in close games, and see his scoring improve. Overall, even a moderate increase in his free throw percentage could pay big dividends for both Poeltl and the Spurs.