San Antonio Spurs Rumors

The Spurs' Jakob Poeltl conundrum: to trade or not to trade

Jakob Poeltl - San Antonio Spurs v Portland Trail Blazers
Jakob Poeltl - San Antonio Spurs v Portland Trail Blazers / Alika Jenner/GettyImages
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The case for the Spurs retaining Jakob Poeltl

If one would have asked me this time a year ago, I'm not so sure that I would have wanted to keep Poeltl around long-term even with Murray and White still on the team. But he has continued to improve at an impressive rate, and if one asks me today, I'd say that I'm torn between the two sides. But contrary to some claims that there is no good reason to keep Poeltl on the team, I find the argument to be quite strong.

Poeltl's passing makes him versatile on offense

Poeltl is known by many Spurs fans for his stifling defense--particularly around the rim--and that's very understandable. After all, the nickname 'Blockob Poeltl' wasn't created out of thin air. But it's Poeltl's incredible feel for the game and sharp playmaking ability that set him apart from many other rim-protecting bigs. This allows his teammates to take advantage of their increased pace and off-ball activity, leading to lots of open looks on all three levels.

Not only does this skillset allow for Poeltl to be an offensive hub for the Spurs, but it also makes him playable with other non-shooting bigs and forwards despite his lack of a reliable jumper. For a team looking to develop their young core's off-ball skills (like Jeremy Sochan's spot-up shooting, for example), Poeltl is one of the best bigs a team could have on the roster. To dive more into the minutiae and watch examples of the various ways in which Poeltl anchors the Spurs' motion offense, I highly recommend you read this in-depth analysis by Joe Hulbert at Swish Theory.

Poeltl is the perfect big for developing young guards

While Poeltl seems to maximize the potential of his teammates' off-ball skills, it would be a mistake to overlook how he's able to positively impact his teammates when the ball is in their hands as well. His hard screen-setting and finishing ability out of the pick and roll make him an invaluable asset to developing young guards, and I think Tre Jones' development is a clear-cut example of that paying off.

So why is this significant? Not only did the Spurs select two nineteen-year-old guards in the 2022 NBA Draft, but I think there's a significant chance that the Spurs could opt for another guard in the upcoming draft, with Scoot Henderson and Keyonte George currently topping my big board at the time of writing this article.

Poeltl is one of the best rim protectors in the league

Poeltl is far from being one of the most athletic players in the league, but he makes up for it and then some with his instincts and outstanding timing on blocks. He doesn't bite on many fakes, always jumps at the perfect time to even meet some of the league's top athletes at the rim, and even has decent recovery speed when he's beaten on drives. While he won't get his team blocks on the perimeter à la Robert Williams III, he's a force to be reckoned with in the paint.

For Jeremy Sochan to continue playing in the Spurs' starting lineup, he needs to be paired with a high-level rim protector so he's able to slide out to the perimeter on defense. Being that Sochan is advertised as being able to guard 4-5 positions, getting as much experience as possible defending NBA players on the perimeter early in his career will be paramount in his long-term development. Meanwhile, he can continue to build on his frame to better defend true bigs in the paint if and when Poeltl departs the team.