Why one troubling fact could affect Spurs' trade value for Poeltl

Jakob Poeltl
Jakob Poeltl / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

With Spurs center Jakob Poeltl having no shortage of suitors, it appears San Antonio will likely trade the seven-footer soon. Despite that, a recent development could negatively affect his trade value: his defense. Part of Poeltl's appeal is his size and elite ability to protect the basket. However, Poeltl hasn't brought his usual impact this season.

Poeltl has clearly slipped on the defensive end.

For instance, among centers, Poeltl ranks a pedestrian 18th in Defensive Real Plus-Minus. Worse yet, after allowing opponents to shoot just 52.8% on shots within six feet of the rim two years ago, it's up to 64.6% this season. For comparison, teammate Zach Collins has allowed opponents to shoot a respectable 55.6%, while Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jaren Jackson Jr. has held opponents to only 48.3% on those shots. 

Then there's his Defensive Rating; when Poeltl is on the floor, Opponents are thoroughly torching the Spurs. Last season, San Antonio gave up 111.8 points per 100 possessions with Poeltl on the court. Compare that to this season, where that number has spiked to 119.7. 

It's become so bad that, for the first time since he was a rookie, he's a net-negative player with a -9.6 Net Rating. Teams apparently haven't caught on to that fact since it doesn't seem to have damaged his trade value yet. Then again, if the Spurs keep him beyond the trade deadline, it could affect his value going forward.

The Spurs still have to decide what to do with Poeltl.

With the Spurs unsure whether they'll land the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, they could be hesitant to move Poeltl without having a starting center in place for next season. Technically, they could still retain him in free agency since that comes after the NBA Draft Lottery. If the ping-pong balls bounce in their favor, the Spurs could always work out a sign-and-trade with another team. Of course, they risk other clubs leveraging his defensive struggles against them in negotiations.

Or, if the Spurs fail to land the top pick, they could re-sign Poeltl and hope he bounces back once the team is more competitive and less injury-ridden. There's reason to believe that that will happen since the Spurs have been playing an unusually extensive rotating cast of perimeter players around Poeltl.

Even erasers wear out, and he can only do so much to fix defensive mistakes from his teammates, such as failed rotations. There also lies the possibility that teams interested in Poeltl already know about his poor defensive metrics but have chosen to take them with a grain of salt. That's probably the smart thing to do, and I'm not just saying that because those teams could give up two first-round picks for him.

After all, there's plenty of evidence that he can be an impactful defender on a better team, and Poeltl playing for, say, Boston or Toronto could prove that. There are also organizations that might not be focused solely on his defense. Sure, he can be helpful, but he's shown that he can also be a versatile offensive player, and teams such as Dallas or Portland could be interested for that reason.

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Poeltl's slippage on the defensive end may not affect his immediate trade value. However, with so many teams competing to acquire his services, his value could be at an all-time high.