San Antonio Spurs Center: Jakob Poeltl/Thaddeus Young
The center position is particularly crucial to many closing lineups. Considering teams often play with just one big man on the floor, that player needs to be able to defend both away from the basket and at the rim as well as rebound. Also, they need to be something of an offensive threat. Luckily, San Antonio has Jakob Poeltl, who is effective in defending the pick and roll, protecting the rim, and rebounding, while also being an excellent finisher around the rim.
That said, Coach Popovich may have to keep his options open depending on the matchup. While Poeltl is the ideal center for most closing lineups, there may be unique opposing lineups in which he may struggle to stay on the floor.
In which case, recently acquired veteran, Thaddeus Young, may be used. While Young has historically played power forward, he doesn’t provide enough shooting to play the four in this particular lineup. However, his defensive versatility makes him an ideal small-ball center. Though there would be some tradeoffs, including losing rebounding and rim protection, with Young at center.
That said, Murray, White, and Johnson are all solid rebounders and could help Young on the glass. Also, Young is more capable of defending on the perimeter than Poeltl and could even do some switching. Offensively, he’s a unique player who can score in a number of ways, though his passing might be his most important skill in late-game situations. Ultimately, the combination of Poeltl and Young should give San Antonio plenty of flexibility at center.
We’ll have to wait and see whether these predictions prove to be accurate. What is clear is that next season’s crunch-time lineup is certain to be younger than it's been in years. However, I believe that a closing lineup of Murray, White, Walker, Johnson, and either Poeltl or Young, could actually surprise next season.