Who Will Be The Spurs' Backup Center By Season's End?

Harrison Barnes, Jock Landale
Harrison Barnes, Jock Landale / Kavin Mistry/GettyImages

The San Antonio Spurs have enjoyed a plethora of options at the center position in 2021-22. Jakob Poeltl has been a force in the starting lineup and has been the team's second-best player behind Dejounte Murray. Looking down the bench, Jock Landale, Devontae Cacok, and now Zach Collins have all provided productive minutes at center for the Silver and Black.

Barring injury or an unexpected trade, Poeltl will not be leaving the starting lineup for the foreseeable future. It remains to be seen who will emerge as the Spurs' permanent fixture at the five off the bench. With Zach Collins returning from injury Friday night against the Houston Rockets, the Spurs now have four players in the running for that spot.

Drew Eubanks proved to be the odd man out on trade deadline day. He was by far the longest-tenured Spur of the four bigs, but he never proved he could be a true long-term rotational piece for this team.

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Jock Landale, Willy Hernangomez / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages

Has Jock Landale shown enough to be the lead backup big?

Despite missing a chunk of the early part of the season due to injury, Jock Landale has shown flashes of greatness in his first season in the NBA. His scoring efficiency has dropped a bit since the start of the season, but he hasn't been afraid to keep shooting the ball. The Aussie big man's 57 three-point attempts are the most of any player over 6-7 on the roster.

Landale has been able to contribute right away as a rookie partly because of his excellent feel for the game. Having already played professional basketball in Australia, he is used to competing against the best on a nightly basis. He's also been a major help in the floor spacing department, making opponents respect his textbook jump shot from behind the arc. It's these qualities that make it seem like he could fill the role of backup center nicely.

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Saddiq Bey, Devontae Cacok / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages

Devontae Cacok has been tearing up the G League

Devontae Cacok has been a pleasant surprise for San Antonio in 2021-22. After being claimed off waivers in October, the former UNC Wilmington standout has shown steady progression toward potentially earning a multi-year contract in the near future.

While playing with the Austin Spurs, Cacok recorded a team record 15 consecutive double-doubles when he notched 22 points and 10 rebounds on January 27th. He came just two double-doubles shy of setting the G League record as well. His tenacity and high energy help him be a force on the boards, and he's a capable defender both on the interior and the perimeter.

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San Antonio Spurs Zach Collins / Casey Sykes/GettyImages

Is Zach Collins now the guy to beat at backup center?

The final candidate for the Spurs' backup center returned to action less than a week ago after going 540 days between game action due to injury. Zach Collins showed the whole package of what you would look for in a modern big man: shooting prowess, good hands, touch around the basket, and solid court vision. He recorded 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals in just 13 minutes of game action.

Collins essentially picked up where he left off in Portland, where he last played in August 2020. Before undergoing a third surgery on his left ankle, Collins started all 11 games of his 2019-20 campaign for the Blazers at power forward.

By the end of the season, the Spurs will have to make a decision on who to go with at the five off the bench. Fortunately, they've afforded themselves a few pretty solid options.

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My prediction is that they will ultimately choose Zach Collins to fill that role due to his versatility. He's a better athlete than Landale and just further along in his development than Cacok. If he can return to playing at the level he was for Portland a few seasons ago, he should undoubtedly be getting the nod.

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