As the trade deadline approaches, the rumors are flying. One of the latest involves Spurs’ center Jakob Poeltl, who is drawing interest from several teams, including the Raptors and Bulls, according to NBA insider Marc Stein($).
It’s not surprising that other franchises are interested in Poeltl. The six-year veteran is averaging career highs in most categories while being an elite interior defender and an improving offensive player. It’s also not shocking to learn that the Spurs’s asking price is expected to be high, with a first round pick and a quality player in return being the baseline, since their starting center is on an extremely team-friendly contract and is just entering his prime. Nothing appears imminent for now, and it’s likely the deadline will pass with Poeltl still in San Antonio. Still, it’s interesting to at least try to see what a deal that makes sense for the Spurs would look like.
The Bulls don’t seem to be a natural landing spot for Poeltl, because they have a quality starting center in Nikola Vucevic. The former All-Star is not as good of a defensive player as Poeltl is and had struggled with his shot recently before exploding for 36 against the Pacers, but he’s making $24 million this season and has a year left on his contract after this one. The two couldn’t share the floor without one of them playing out of position, and Chicago could use a big forward more than a center at this point. If they had a trade sending out Vucevic lined up or simply want to have an overqualified backup as they go all in this season, however, sending out former fourth overall pick Patrick Williams straight up for Poeltl would make sense, since Williams is expected to miss the rest of the season with a dislocated wrist. Coby White, their 2022 first rounder and filler could also work, but it’s doubtful the Spurs would want another guard.
A Raptors trade is easier to configure, depending on the Spurs’ definition of “a quality player.” If they think Precious Achiuwa fits the bill, they could easily make a deal for the former first rounder, either Khem Birch or most likely Chris Boucher, and Toronto’s 2022 first rounder. Toronto could really use a center of Poeltl’s caliber to anchor a leaky defense, and the front office is familiar with the Austrian big man. The question is how committed they are to making a run in the East, since they currently have the sixth best record in the conference. For the Spurs, the deal would be all about adding draft capital and getting a young big man on his rookie deal instead of keeping Poeltl, who is 26 years old already and will enter the last year of his contract next season. Boucher’s expiring deal would also give them more flexibility in the summer to potentially pursue a free agent.
For now, there are not a lot of details available about what exactly the Spurs are looking for or how strong other franchise’s interest in Poeltl in, but there will surely be more rumors surfacing soon. There are few players who can contribute while being on a fantastic contract, so San Antonio’s big man is sure to get suitors. It would be surprising if the Silver and Black seriously consider trading him for anything other than a stellar return, so a deal might not be in the cards, but stranger things have happened around the deadline.
We’ll keep you updated when more information becomes available.