Recently, a colleague of mine discussed some bold predictions discussed for San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl. Some things we explored were his free throw shooting, potentially leading the league in blocks, and even suggesting that Jak will become one of the Spurs' playmakers. I agree with all three, especially the last point.
The ceiling is higher than most common folk think for Jak, and while he may very well surprise the doubters this coming season and end up being named to the All-NBA Defensive team, there is one item that does not warrant a prediction, discussion, question, or even a second glance, much less a debate. But, opinions vary, widely, and everyone is entitled to their own when it comes to deciding starting lineups for the Spurs this season.
So, I beg the question, should Jakob Poeltl remain full-time in the starting lineup for this season’s new-look Spurs? Or do the Silver and Black go a different route and start Jock Landale? Or maybe alternate Jak and Jock sharing minutes? Oh, the possibilities are endless, but the answer is simple.
Number 25 belongs in the starting lineup, plain and simple, and he showed why last spring.
Back in March of this year, Poeltl poured in 20 points and secured 16 rebounds in the Spurs' win over the Bulls on St. Patrick’s Day. Perhaps number 25 had some of that Irish luck in his back pocket that night to help put up those are stout numbers. Heck, every dog has his day, especially if that dog is Irish and playing on the greenest day of the year.
Except Jakob Peoltl isn’t Irish, nor a dog, and this was anything but luck.
As impressive as the Austrian native’s performance in Chicago turned out to be, it ended up serving as an encore to the previous game in which Jak ground out another double-double in a win over the Pistons two days earlier in The Motor City.
Back-to-back double-double performances on the road? As solid as it gets for a big man if you ask me. What may be even more impressive goes beyond the stats and lives in the details, which are often overlooked. Numbers do not lie, of course, but when deciding who should start for the Silver and Black, one must go beyond the data and search for something more that sets a player apart. The data, in this case, is consistency, the detail of all details.
Being consistent is key, folks -- especially late in the season, on a road trip, with potential playoff implications on the line night in and night out. In mid-March last season for the Spurs, all three variables were strongly in play, and Jak came through in the clutch.
At that point in a season, injuries, along with several handfuls of other concerns, come into the picture for every NBA club. Things like this make a performance of such stature carry a little bit more depth and weight than say, hypothetically speaking, a scenario in which one secures double-doubles on back-to-back nights in October at home against the Rockets. Simply put, the importance is consistency, given the circumstances. If I am Coach Pop, who has been known to dial into detail, I say give me Jak as a starter all day long for this reason alone.
Now before you start throwing season-long statistics out there to prove that Jakob may not be as consistent as suggested by yours truly, shift the focus for a moment from being consistent to being durable. Ah, durability, another often overlooked detail.
If a player is durable throughout the course of a season, meaning they take the punishment and keep on keeping on, then a few off games that might hamper the consistency aspect can be allowable. Jak is as durable as a metal roof is during a hailstorm in South Texas. For context, metal roofing tends to be hail damage resistant.
It takes the beating and shows up the day after with little to no sign of damage or distress. This is what Jak does, night in and night out on the NBA hardwood. Is he immune to injuries? Of course not. Nobody is, but Jak will carry on when other players can or will not. He is durable. Plain and simple.
Durability and consistency -- that is what you want in a starting center. Jak has these attributes accounted for, we know this. His talent is good enough to keep him playing in the greatest basketball league in the world and should be enough for him to start for the San Antonio Spurs when the season tips off later this month.
More importantly, this man is a San Antonio Spur. Like the greats that came before, Poeltl can be a starter for the Spurs by leaning on that consistency like Tim, remaining durable like Manu, and expanding on that god-given talent just as Tony Parker did all the while keeping that big man tradition alive for the Spurs.
Jak is a clear starter now and might just keep that role for years to come.
*Note: This is part two of a two-part Air Alamo debate series. The argument for Jock Landale starting over Poeltl can be found here.