Jakob Poeltl has been an integral part of the San Antonio Spurs so far in this young season. Surprisingly, the Austrian center has been a force on both ends of the floor, not just on defense, where he has previously excelled.
The Spurs will miss him for the next “several games” as he enters the NBA’s health and safety protocols, presumably for contract tracing reasons.
Luckily, Poeltl, like the rest of the team, is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and should face minimal symptoms if he has indeed tested positive.
In the meantime, the San Antonio Spurs have a seven-foot hole in their starting lineup. Over the next two weeks, the Spurs face the Mavericks, Magic, Thunder, Kings, and Lakers. Expect big nights from rim-runners and big men as the Spurs suffer to find a defensive replacement down low.
The Spurs are not lacking talent at the center position, not at all. Drew Eubanks and Jock Landale have proven themselves to be more than serviceable, getting buckets in the small amount of playing time they receive. Per 36 minutes both have played surprisingly well on the defensive end, and hopefully, they can carry that momentum further as they get more playing time.
Still, it would not surprise me if Gregg Popovich instead opts for a small-ball lineup with Thaddeus Young at the center. The oldest player on the team by far, Young brings some elder sensibility that Poeltl conducts himself with, so in terms of team performance and fit, there is some justification there.
While Young scores less than Eubanks or Landale and his defensive role is yet to be defined in this young season, he is indisputably a better facilitator than the other two options. As the Spurs settle into a shooting rhythm and Dejounte Murray proves himself to be an elite point guard, having a center who can get him the ball is not a bad idea.
Hopefully, Poeltl makes a swift recovery or is cleared to play sooner rather than later because the Spurs are going to struggle severely without him. With five centers on the roster (Poeltl, Landale, Eubanks, Young, Collins) this will be an opportunity for players to show their worth as the season progresses and the trade deadline comes closer.