Jakob Poeltl‘s current situation with the San Antonio Spurs is just as confusing as the word game named after him. A slew of teams are trying to solve it right now, and for as complicated as it may be, the Brooklyn Nets should look to do the same.
After a breakout season in which the Austrian big man averaged a career-high 13.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, Poeltl established himself as a true rock in the paint—showing up night after night with a tough and unforgiving brand of basketball.
Playing some astute defense and suiting up for 65+ plus games last season, something he’s done every season since his rookie campaign, Poeltl resembles a true rarity in today’s “load management” NBA.
Why Jakob Poeltl Makes All the Sense in the World for the Brooklyn Nets
For Brooklyn though, he strikes as a potential asset with even greater value with the Nets being a team that’s struggled to find stability at the center position since trading away Jarrett Allen.
While not the most athletic specimen, Poeltl plays hard and hustles around the hardwood. No NBA player contested more shots per game than him last year. Simply by closing out on shooters, he promises to help out a Brooklyn team that ranked in the bottom five in that same stat last season.
Even with opposing players going up for slams, Poeltl always challenges the shot. He has no fear of getting posterized. His mind stays fixated on one thing alone—protecting the cylinder.
Poeltl’s hustle translates to the other side of the court as well with perhaps the grittiest thing one can do on offense: setting screens.
Last year, Poeltl averaged 5.5 screen assists per game, the fourth most in the entire league. You know who loves playing off screens? Brooklyn’s superman Kevin Durant. The Slim Reaper averaged the third most points per game off screens last season. Teammates Patty Mills and Seth Curry cracked the top-50 in that stat as well.
Perhaps Curry, alongside Durant and Mills, can recreate the production they enjoyed working behind screens set by former Net Andre Drummond. Drummond spoke highly on how effective his screens are in freeing up Curry at the offensive end last year. With Poeltl’s top tier screen assist numbers, there’s no reason to think a new rendition of that could not occur in Brooklyn.
How Do the Brooklyn Nets Get Jakob Poeltl in a Trade?
So in getting Jakob Poeltl to Brooklyn, the “why” is there, but the “how” remains to be seen. Being a rebuilding team, San Antonio wants draft capital above all else in return for Poeltl, all of which for Brooklyn is currently being stored in a Houston bunker.
From there, youngsters Cam Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe, and Kessler Edwards might intrigue them. However, Sharpe and especially Thomas illustrated All-Star potential at times last year. Dishing them away for a player on the final year of his deal feels risky especially with Brooklyn again missing the draft capital to build for the future.
The $9.3 million cap hit on Poeltl’s deal also complicates things. With Brooklyn paying out three massive contracts and then a slew of veteran’s minimum deals, their choices in players to send over that will match things easily on the books are minimal.
Although a Joe Harris deal featuring Poeltl and another player might make a bit more sense for Brooklyn given their excess of sharp shooters and upgrades on the wing this summer, sources say that the team does not want to trade him “under any circumstances.”
From my viewpoint, the only player who realistically gets Poeltl to Brooklyn is Nic Claxton, whose salary stands at $8.5 million per year and remains just 23 years old. Being both young and with a modest cap hit attached to him, he hits the sweet spot for this Spurs team concentrated on the future.
With Brooklyn signing Claxton this summer via his bird rights, they cannot trade him until January 15th. But there’s also the topic of whether or not Brooklyn should trade Claxton. Being a lengthy, switchable player, he promises to help the Nets on defense for the next two seasons just as he did the last.
Whether or not Brooklyn pulls the trigger on a Clax for Poeltl deal likely hinges on Sharpe’s development in his sophomore season. Should Sharpe evolve into a heavy minutes and versatile big, Claxton becomes far more disposable.
Although “just wait and see” is usually not a wise strategy when pursuing a trade target, it is the only one that makes sense for the Brooklyn Nets right now. One can only hope that they navigate their way through it correctly.