Why should the Spurs trade for Jakob Poeltl?

Jakob Poeltl has been a mainstay in trade rumors and seems like a natural candidate to be moved before the deadline, but rumors of the Spurs actually wanting to keep him continue to circulate. In order to trade him, San Antonio is apparently asking for two first-rounders. which seems like an unrealistic price for someone who might be renting.

It’s always difficult to parse what’s real and what’s just posturing, as the Spurs may simply be trying to inflate Poeltl’s value with leaks while being willing to part with him for a more reasonable return. That said, when most reports from reliable sources suggest the front office may want him back, it should be considered a serious possibility.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to make much sense for the Spurs to actually keep Poeltl unless they try to rebuild for a year, which could be a risky decision.

The reasons why parting ways with the trade seem smart have little to do with Poelt’s ability or character. Quality big men are hard to come by, as the fact that so many teams are interested in Poeltl attests. Screening, rebounding, passing, inside scoring and interior defense are extremely valuable even in a more perimeter NBA, and Poeltl provides them all. He’s also been a great leader by example by all accounts, and Pop compliments his consistency. Jakob has done everything he has been asked to do, tried his best in every role he has been given and has improved year by year. He is a very good player.

Unfortunately, the last few seasons have proven that despite his improvement, he just doesn’t move the needle much for a bad team. Poeltl is a fantastic actor, a perfect complement, but he’s not just a star. He needs elite talent around him to really make an impact, and the Spurs don’t have that.

The most optimistic fans will simply add “yet” to the previous sentence. The idea of ​​landing Victor Wembanyama, putting him next to Poelt, adding some veterans to use the cap space the team will have next season, and using the Falcons’ pick to make moves is certainly enticing. If Victor or any of the top prospects are in fact special talents ready to contribute sooner rather than later, the Spurs could essentially be doing a one-year rebuild, which may actually be their plan. In a few seasons, they could be in a position like the Pelicans, who paired Zion Williamson and other young players with CJ McCollum and Steven Adams. If that happens, any concerns that Poeltl isn’t on schedule will go out the window, as he’s still only 27 and will be nearing or entering his 30s when San Antonio is ready to make some noise.

Alas, there is absolutely no guarantee that the Spurs will land a true franchise player in this draft. Even if they land a future star, it’s impossible to know when that player will reach his potential. Most rebuilds take more than a year due to development curves and genuine omissions, and it would be unwise for the Spurs to just prepare for the best and put all their eggs in one basket, giving themselves only one season to retool their roster. their own choice. It’s understandable not to want to be at the bottom of the standings for years before actually building a competitive team, but arbitrarily deciding one season is enough doesn’t seem smart given all the variables a franchise can’t control.

Now, because Poeltl won’t carry the Spurs down the court by himself, and he has to be mobile (assuming his free throws don’t backfire and his body holds up) even on a $20 million-a-year contract. he’s looking, it can be made that there’s no problem keeping him around for another couple of years. But the risk is falling into old habits. The most frustrating part of the post-Kawhi Leonard era has been the lack of consistent direction as the Spurs have tried to build with young guys while also having some veterans around, which has resulted in them remaining decent enough to keep themselves afloat. draft and top of the standings. History could repeat itself, as San Antonio will likely improve organically through internal development and with a better version of the team, Poeltl will be the type of veteran to help them get to 30 wins and a lower lottery spot, which is exactly what it is. privilege should be avoided.

It’s hard to defend trading Poeltl because he’s a quality player and a great culture, but if San Antonio wants to become a contender again at some point, finding a way to acquire a centerpiece should be a priority. Any decision that could negatively impact that prospect should probably be avoided, no matter how painful it is, and keeping Poeltl would be one such decision. He would improve the team if there was a baseline level of eligibility, which would mean a lower lottery probability. The $20 million it would cost to sign him would deepen the team’s cap space and future flexibility. And it’s likely his value as a trade piece will drop as he gets older and his bigger contract comes up.

It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if Poeltl ended up on the Spurs’ roster after the deadline or after next season, but prioritizing the veteran role player’s continuity over staying in asset acquisition mode just seems like the wrong thing to do. at this point in the rebuilding effort.

If there is a good offer for their starter between now and the deadline, the Spurs should take it. It would be a blow in the short term, but it would show that the front office believes in the path they have chosen and will not make the same mistakes they have made in the past.

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