Why the San Antonio Spurs Should Wait to Trade Jakob Poeltl

Jakob Poeltl
(Credit: Chris Carlson/AP)

Once the San Antonio Spurs traded Dejounte Murray this summer, Spurs fans, as well as teams around the league, finally had confirmation that the suspicion that emerged following the Spurs’ active trade deadline was true – they were finally embracing a rebuild.

This quickly led Spurs fans to wonder who else on the team could be moved. How deep was the rebuild going to go? Were they going to move every player older than Devin Vassell and enter a lengthy, draft-centric era of team building? Or would they keep their other contributing players and bottom out for a year or two before trying to make a push into contention once again?

The Spurs provided somewhat of an answer, showing commitment to Keldon Johnson by signing him to a 4-year, nearly $80 million contract early in the off-season. Still, there are rumblings that the Spurs are open to trade Jakob Poeltl, their 26-year-old center, though for a fairly high price.

San Antonio should be in no rush to trade Poeltl. If the Spurs have a price in mind and teams aren’t willing to match it yet, there is no reason to move him now for the sake of moving him. There are several main reasons this is true.

Keeping Jakob Poeltl Won’t Stop the Spurs From Being Bad

Poeltl is undoubtedly an elite rim protector. Sure, a team that is trying to get a high lottery pick may see the value in moving off of an in-his-prime player like the Austrian big man. The particular skillset that Poeltl is elite at could make a good team great, but won’t make a bad team good. Just having Poeltl on the court won’t push the Spurs from being a team that is almost certainly locked into a top-four pick to being one that is picking in the late lottery.

Other Teams Don’t Have the Flexibility to Add Him

Over the past month, teams have had more control over the construction of their roster than they have had at any time since last August. As such, they won’t have this much flexibility to change their roster again until next summer. Teams are bought into their teams right now. Owners, fans, and front offices have sold themselves on the idea that this year is THE year that their team will take the next step on the path to a championship.

For many teams, this belief wanes before late January and early February. Those that set high expectations internally may be feeling the pressure to push for a move that helps them be more competitive for a postseason push. Otherwise, they will have to face the reality that their off-season moves and/or expected internal improvement aren’t affecting the team as much as they had originally hoped. Between an owner who spent over $100 million on a roster they had expected to be competitive and a fan base that was led to believe their favorite team would be playing better than they are, desperation can form.

Wait to Trade Jakob Poeltl at the February Deadline

If more than one team gets desperate, the Spurs will have something like a bidding war for Poeltl. At that time, they can extract more value for him then than they can now. Any team that is needing a defensive upgrade can talk itself into Poeltl being an answer. Not to mention, his contract makes him easy to acquire from a salary-matching perspective. All of that adds fuel to the fire of desperation for a team that believes they can make a deep playoff run if they could drastically improve their defense at the rim.

If San Antonio keeps Poeltl for now, they can lightly showcase his skills while keeping his playing time low to prevent injury. With this approach, they may be able to get more by moving him before the trade deadline than if they did it now.


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