San Antonio Spurs: Jakob Poeltl is seizing his opportunity

Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images
Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images /

Jakob Poeltl was the starting center for the San Antonio Spurs at the beginning of the season before falling out of favor. After the injury to Pau Gasol, Poeltl had a reprieve and he is making the most of it.

After being traded from the Toronto Raptors to the San Antonio Spurs as part of the Kawhi Leonard/DeMar DeRozan trade, Jakob Poeltl was inserted straight into the starting lineup. After starting the first three games he played, Poeltl was so ineffective he only played five of the first nine games.

Poeltl averaged only 11.4 minutes in this series of games and was largely ineffective. Averages of 2.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 0.2 blocks per game were just not good enough. He had only two notable numbers in the first nine games. Firstly, Poeltl shot the ball at 50 percent on 4-of-8 shooting and had 2.8 offensive rebounds per game.

This was not the kind of production expected of Poeltl when he was included in the trade. His career numbers are 5.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 0.6 assists per game. In his rookie year, Poeltl shot the ball at 58.3 percent, then in his second season he shot it at 65.9 percent.

He’s not a high volume scorer, nor does he rebound at a high level. Poeltl was a decent rim protector in Toronto, but looked a out of place in the Spurs’ defensive system early in the season. Something changed when Pau Gasol got injured.

After the Gasol injury

Since the 10th game of the season, Poeltl has played 20 of a possible 21 games. He has also played only three games where he logged less than 10 minutes in this time. What he has done is taken the opportunity presented to him with both hands.

In these 20 games, Poeltl has averaged just 14.8 minutes per game, but he has looked so much better than at the start of the season. His scoring output has increased to 6.7 points per game, his shooting percentage has also gone up to 65.1 percent.

His rebounding numbers are respectable, going up to 5.2 per game. He is still rebounding well at the offensive end, collecting 2.2 offensive boards per game. His defensive rebounding numbers are higher than in the first nine games at 3.0 per contest. It is this extra work rate that is keeping Poeltl in the rotation.

Poeltl is also showing greater understanding of the Spurs’ defensive system by getting into the correct positions to either block or alter shots. He has averaged 0.9 blocks per game since Gasol has been out.

Overall, he’s been a big part of the team’s recent four-game win streak. He has averaged 21.3 minutes per game in this time, improving on his season numbers at 6.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 0.8 assists a night. His play has been huge in helping the Spurs during this time, as he provides valuable minutes off the bench.

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Jakob Poeltl has scored in double figures five times this season, including a career-high 20 points in early December (though it came in a 34-point loss). These recent numbers are showing the type of player he could become, and the Spurs may have a ready-made replacement for Pau Gasol when he eventually retires.