After an encouraging start to the season, the San Antonio Spurs have fallen back to earth. The Spurs have strung together a rather long series of losses fueled by some concerning trends on the hardwood (only interrupted by a lone win against the Milwaukee Bucks sans Antetokoumpo) and are leading the charge to the bottom of the standings, meaning "tank for Wemby" season is now in full effect.
As the Spurs continue to rack up losses, questions about certain players' futures on the team have mounted. Specifically, many are wondering if it is time for the Spurs to look to flip one or both of Josh Richardson and Jakob Poeltl to a contender to try to recoup some picks or a young player.
Both players should attract interest in the trade market, but Poeltl in particular should have a lot of teams interested. He's a consistent, young, defensive-minded big man in the last year of a very reasonable contract. Several teams--notably the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, and Dallas Mavericks--have all been tangentially linked to Poeltl through the rumor mill.
The Warriors make a great candidate for a Poeltl trade. The defending champions have fallen flat so far this season and desperately need him. Their defense is one of the worst in the league, and they desperately need rim protection. A trade for Poeltl makes a ton of sense for Golden State, and the Spurs should listen. Unless Golden State is offering James Wiseman as the centerpiece.
James Wiseman should be a nonstarter in any trade for Jakob Poeltl
Several outlets including our friends over at Blue Man Hoop as well as ESPN's Zach Lowe have toyed with the idea of a Wiseman for Poeltl swap. I'll admit I advocated for the Spurs to trade up to grab Wiseman when he was coming out of Memphis and since then we here at Air Alamo have occasionally weighed in on whether or not the Spurs should trade for him. But now the jury is out and the verdict is clear - any deal that is centered around Poeltl and Wiseman would be an absolute fleecing by Golden State.
Since entering the league in 2020, Wiseman has consistently failed to live up to the potential many thought that he had when he was drafted. It hasn't always been his fault--he did miss an entire season due to injury after all. But even when he has been on the court the results haven't always been impressive.
At this point, it's pretty clear that Wiseman isn't ready for high-level NBA competition. He gets outworked by players he should have a physical advantage over, seems to struggle to fit into the flow of the Warriors' offense, and offers none of the defensive promises that a player with his abilities should theoretically provide.
I'm not alone in my skepticism of Wiseman's potential - Sean Deveny of Heavy Sports cited one NBA coach who believes that Wiseman looks in over his head and that his relegation to the G-League will continue for quite some time.
""You can’t have him out there with a big role with the second unit because he is not good enough to carry that group. What do you do with him? I don’t think they know, so he is going to be down there (in the G League) because at least you know he will be on the floor.""- Western Conference Coach on Wiseman
Deveny would also cite Steve Kerr reiterating that he is still a believer in Wiseman's talent, but what is the head coach of the Warriors supposed to say? "No, we completely messed up this pick. He's not at all the player we thought he was going to be"? That's not something he can say - at least not to the media.
Perhaps Wiseman can eventually turn into the player we thought he could be. But at this point, that isn't a gamble the Spurs should be taking, at least not in a trade that sends out Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl is a proven commodity and should be able to net the Spurs an impressive return if trading him is something they're looking to do. You don't flip a player with his impact for a "maybe he will maybe he won't" guy like Wiseman.
I'm not opposed to the Spurs trading Jakob Poeltl, I'm not even opposed to them trading him to Golden State. But it'd be much better for San Antonio to make the target of that trade someone like Jonathan Kuminga or the Warriors' first-round pick in 2023 instead of a guy who has yet to prove he can hold his own on a court with other NBA players.