By the time this season ends, Jock Landale should be the starting center for the San Antonio Spurs. The Aussie big man brings a breath of fresh air to a lineup that seems to still be stuck in the past. The Spurs have too many slashers and don’t rely heavily enough on their shooters, and Landale offers floor spacing on the roster like no one else.
Don’t get me wrong. Jakob Poeltl might still be the best center on the roster, but he is not the guy who should often have the ball in his hands. Poeltl is simply not an offensive weapon. His shooting is poor, his handles are nonexistent, and his passing, while not awful, is not as good as Jock’s.
Defense is really where Poeltl shines. He is one of the best interior defenders in the league, although in Melbourne last season, Landale proved he can hold his own down low too. While Landale is certainly not an elite defender like Poeltl, he is serviceable, and with a fairly even minute split between the two, it should work out.
Let’s look at the Spurs' preseason opener against Utah from Monday night. Poeltl played 17 minutes to Landale’s 15. Poeltl had four points on 2-of-4 shooting. However, he shined with ten rebounds, two blocks, and a steal. Notably, he didn’t have a single turnover.
Landale was not far behind. While he only amassed six rebounds, he had more assists and knocked down two threes for an eight-point showing. He did give up five turnovers, though, which was a team-high.
Obviously, Landale shouldn't start right away after just a one-game sample size. But as he learns to take care of the ball and play NBA basketball, it should become apparent that he is simply a more well-rounded big man. A modern center that complements everyone around him, Landale can post up, dribble around slower defenders, and shoot over smaller ones.
Granted, he won’t be competing for an All-Defensive nod like Poeltl would if he started, but on a team with plenty of scorers capable of dropping 15 a night, adding another into the mix would do a lot more good than bad.
By no means am I advocating for Poeltl to ride the bench or get traded. In fact, I think both should split minutes fairly evenly, although Landale is a dual-threat center who should be starting and closing every game when he reaches NBA level readiness.
*Note: This is part one of a two-part Air Alamo debate series. The argument for keeping Poeltl can be found here.