PBT’s 2016 NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Jakob Poeltl


Jakob Poeltl‘s path from unknown player in Austria to a potential top ten pick has been fun to watch. He was the no-name member of Utah’s 2014 recruiting class, turned himself into a potential first round pick and a freshman and, after opting to return to school for his sophomore season, turned himself into the best big man in college basketball.

But here’s the bigger question that needs to be asked: Just how much value do big men have in the NBA these days? Jahlil Okafor is the best low-post scorer to come into the league since Tim Duncan, but Philly is considering unloading him after just one year because his skill-set may be obsolete. Poeltl is not the talent that Okafor is, but their strengths are not all that dissimilar.

If Okafor is losing value at the next level, what does that mean for every other big man looking at potentially becoming a lottery pick?

Height: 7′ 1″
Weight: 239
Wingspan: 7′ 2.75″
2015-16 Stats: 17.3 points, 9.1 boards, 1.5 blocks

STRENGTHS: As a freshman, Poeltl’s offense was more or less centered around his ability to be a finisher. He’s terrific as the roll-man in ball-screen actions, and this ability was showcased by the fact that he was playing with Delon Wright, an all-american point guard who was at his best in pick-and-rolls. He could score on putbacks and in transition as well, but if he didn’t get the ball right in front of the rim, he wasn’t of much use.

As a sophomore, that changed. Poeltl was one of the most efficient low-post scorers in the country (1.092 PPP) while averaging better than ten post touches per game when you include the possessions when he passed out of double teams. He is not Tim Duncan — his skill-set is not that advanced and, while he shot 69 percent from the free throw line, his touch is not all that great — but he is quite effective. He can score over either shoulder and he’s developing some pretty effective combo and counter moves.

And all that is before you consider the improvement that he made passing the ball out of the post. He averaged just 1.9 assists on the season, but he was no longer a guy that you could take away simply by doubling in the post. He’s not going to be throwing behind-the-back passes to cutters like Chris Webber circa 2003, but he recognizes where the double comes from and can find the open man on the weak-side of the floor. You can run offense through him.

The other part of this? Hack-a-Jakob may not be an option in the NBA. That 69 percent he shot from the charity stripe was up from 43 percent as a freshman. He’s never going to be a guy that spaces the floor, but all-in-all he should be a pretty effective offensive weapon in the NBA.

Defensively, there are some red flags — we’ll get to that — but his biggest strength on this end of the floor is that he’s able to move his feet well enough that he can defend ball-screens in different ways. I’m not sure he’ll be able to switch onto small guards as well as Steven Adams or Tristan Thompson have in the playoffs, but it will be an option that is available to his team.

WEAKNESSES: For a guy that is 7-foot-1, Poeltl was not all that great of a rim protector in the collegiate ranks. This past season, he averaged just 2.0 blocks per 40 minutes. Part of that is his length, as he has an average wingspan and standing reach for his size. Part of it is that he lacks explosiveness off of two-feet; he’s a far better jumper off of one foot when he’s got a head of steam than he is when he is trying to defend at the rim.

And explosiveness is that the only issue with Poeltl’s physical tools. He does check in at about 240 pounds, but he doesn’t play like he’s 240 pounds in large part due to the fact that he doesn’t have all that much lower body strength. He gets over-powered by stronger, more physical opponents and struggles to hold his spot in the paint. It’s part of the reason he’s a below-average defensive rebounder. This, along with his two-footed explosiveness, is something that may be fixable once he gets into an NBA strength and conditioning program, but there’s an underlying lack of toughness that may not be something he can change.

The other issue for Poeltl is his perimeter shooting. It’s getting better, but he’s never going to be a guy that spaces the floor. That’s not the kind of thing that can derail a player’s NBA career, but in a league that is more and more about spacing, it pigeon-holes him as a center that can play a fairly specific role and it puts a limit of what his ceiling will be at the next level.

NBA COMPARISON: The most obvious name here is the last Utah player to get selected in the lottery of the NBA Draft: Andrew Bogut. The per-40 minute numbers that Poeltl and Bogut put up in their final season in Salt Lake City are strikingly similar:

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 12.37.22 PM

At the height of his powers, the former No. 1 pick was averaging 15 points and 10 boards for the Bucks. I’m not sure Poeltl is that guy, but the role that Bogut has played for the Warriors in recent years may be more of what you can expect.

The reason I think Bogut is a better comparison than, say, Jonas Valanciunas or Timofey Mozgov is that Poeltl is a better passer than both of them. You can run offense through him on the block.

OUTLOOK: I mentioned Jahlil Okafor earlier, and that’s not exactly a fair comparison to make. The biggest reason that Okafor’s value is plummeting is that he’s not a rim protector, he cannot defend on the perimeter, his inability to switch onto smaller players makes him a liability against pick and rolls and his ineffectiveness outside of eight feet offensively means that he can’t space the floor. There’s only one thing that Okafor can do right now, and it’s a skill-set that has limited value in the current iteration of the NBA.

Poeltl is different. He’s never going to be Hakeem Olajuwon defensively, but he’s a capable rim protector and he does have the potential to defend pick and rolls and switch onto smaller defenders if needed. And while he’s probably never going to be an elite shooter, even for his size, his free throw shooting went from 43 percent to 69 percent this season and he’s made a jumper here and there for Utah and in international play.

And, perhaps most importantly, Poeltl’s hands and effectiveness as the roll-man in ball-screen actions means that there is more than he can do on the offensive end of the floor than simply getting touches in the post.

He’s not going to be an all-star. I’m not even sure that he’ll ever be a starter on a playoff team. But there’s certainly a spot for Poeltl somewhere in the NBA, even if it is likely as a role player.

Coach, front office moves update: Pistons make Williams hiring official, Borrego or Stotts to Bucks bench?


There are far from settled across the NBA in both the coaching and front office circles, with news still leaking out daily. Here’s an update on things which have come to light in recent days.

• The Detroit Pistons made the hiring of Monty Williams official.

“A week ago, I was not sure what the future would hold,” Williams said in a statement, referencing reports he had planned to take a year away from coaching. “But, after talking with Tom [Gores, team principal owner] and Troy [Weaver, Pistons GM], I was excited hearing their vision for the Pistons going forward. They had a thoughtful plan and I am so appreciative of the emphasis they placed on the personal side of this business. They showed tremendous consideration for me and my family throughout this process.

“They also showed a commitment to success and doing things the right way,” he said. “As we discussed the team and expressed our collective goals, I realized that this would be a great opportunity for me to help a talented young team and build a strong culture here in Detroit. This is obviously a special place with a deep basketball history, and my family and I are looking forward to the opportunity to be a part of this city and organization.”

Williams has a six-year, $78.5 million contract with the team and that reportedly could grow to more than eight years, $100 million if incentives are hit. He was brought in to help build a culture of defense and discipline for a franchise with some nice young players but many questions.

• Kevin Ollie, the former NBA player and UConn coach who was in the mix for the Pistons’ job before Williams was hired, will be on the bench in Brooklyn next season.

• While Adrian Griffin has not officially signed his contract as the new Bucks head coach, he is sitting in on meetings running up to the draft and has essentially started the job, reports Eric Nehm and Shams Charania at The Athletic.

More interestingly, The Athletic reports the Bucks plan to put an experienced, veteran head coach next to the rookie Griffin, and are speaking to former Hornets head coach James Borrego and former Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. Bringing in an experienced staff to put around Griffin is the smart move, with what we saw this season with Joe Mazzulla in Boston as an example of why this is the smart path.

• The Wizards have hired former Hawks head of basketball operations Travis Schlenk to be the right-hand man next to new Wizards president Michael Winger. This is a quality hire. Schlenk was rumored to have questioned Atlanta’s trade for Dejounte Murray to put next to Trae Young — a move ownership wanted — and by mid-season he was pushed out the door. Having Winger and Schlenk in the Washington front office is a lot of brain power, the question remains will they be given true freedom by owner Ted Leonsis to make moves for the long term and not prioritize just making the playoffs? The Wizards have a big offseason coming up with questions about new contracts/extensions for Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis.

• Aaron Nelson, the training staff guru hired by the Pelicans away from the Suns in 2019 to help Zion Williamson and others, appears to be out of the mix in a restructured staff, reports Christian Clark at the Times-Picayune. Zion did not have a great relationship with Nelson, but the question is was Nelson the scapegoat for players issues beyond his control? From Clark’s article:

Williamson’s relationship with Nelson became strained during his rookie season. At different points, Williamson refused to work with him…

Brandon Ingram sat out 29 consecutive games with an injury the team described as a left toe contusion. Ingram kicked the back of a Memphis Grizzlies player’s foot in November. Two days after the injury, Pelicans coach Willie Green said Ingram was “day to day.” Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Ingram did not play again until Jan. 25 — exactly two months after hurting his toe…

Ingram has sometimes seemed unwilling to play through minor discomfort, to the point where some of his teammates have become frustrated with him over the past two years. The Pelicans thought they had solved their player care and performance problem by hiring Nelson. Four years later, Nelson’s time in charge of the department is over.

When the Pelicans have all their stars on the court, this is at the very least, a playoff team in the West and potentially a dangerous one. I’m not going to speculate on the internal dynamics of the Pelicans front office and training team, but after years of injury issues it’s fair to ask if this is a matter of the training staff, or is this on the players themselves?

Knicks’ Julius Randle undergoes ankle surgery, should return for training camp

2023 NBA Playoffs - 	New York Knicks v Miami Heat
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Knicks’ Julius Randle sprained his ankle with two weeks to go in the regular season. He returned from that in time to face the Cleveland Cavaliers and their massive front line in the playoffs, but he struggled in that series — 14.4 points a game on 33.8% shooting — and injured his ankle again in Game 5. He did make it back for the Heat series after missing Game 1 but was never fully himself.

Now, as he hinted at during the playoffs, Randle has undergone offseason arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Randle is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in the fall.

Randle had an All-NBA season, averaging 25.1 points and 10 rebounds a game, and was part of the reason, along with Jalen Brunson, the Knicks were the No. 5 seed in the East last season.

Randle’s name has come up in trade rumors, mostly with him going out if the Knicks get in the mix for a superstar who becomes available this offseason. If someone such as Karl-Anthony Towns or Bradley Beal hits the market and New York wants to be in play, sending out Randle — set to make $25.6 million this season, with two more seasons on the books after that — is the way to match salaries.

Randle should be healthy and ready for training camp for whatever team he is on come September.

Watch Victor Wembanyama highlights from French league playoffs


Give Victor Wembanyama and his handlers credit — they have got him out there playing. The management teams for a lot of future No. 1 picks would have their guy in bubble wrap by now, not doing anything but solo workouts in a gym, not wanting to risk any injury or risking his draft status.

Wembanyama — the 7’4″ prodigy on both ends of the floor — is on the court in the semi-finals of the French LNB league (the highest level of play in France). His team, Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92, is one win away from the LNB Finals. While they lost on Friday to Lyon-Villeurbanne (the best-of-five series is now 2-1 Boulogne-Levallois), Wembanyama put up some highlights worth watching.

The San Antonio Spurs will select Wembanyama with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft (June 22). San Antonio — and possibly Wembanyama — will make their Summer League debut at the California Classic Summer League in Sacramento in early July, before heading on to Las Vegas for the larger, official Summer League. While Wembanyama is playing for his French team in the playoffs, how much the Spurs will play him in the summer leagues — if at all — remains to be seen (top players have been on the court less and less at Summer League in recent years).

Spoestra’s biggest Heat adjustment for Game 2? Play with more ‘toughness and resolve’


DENVER — The days between NBA Finals are filled with talk of adjustments. After an ugly Game 1, much of that falls on the Heat — what can Erik Spoelstra draw up to get Jimmy Butler better lanes to attack? How must the Heat adjust their defense on Nikola Jokick?

Spoelstra sees it a little differently.

“Scheme is not going to save us,” he said.

His point is straightforward, the team’s best adjustment is simply to play better. More effort, more resolve. The trio of Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson must do better than 2-of-23 from 3. The Heat can’t settle for jumpers like they did in Game 1, they have to attack the rim and draw some fouls, getting to the line (the Heat had just two free throws in Game 1). Their halfcourt defensive decisions have to be sharper. Those are not scheme-related things.

The Heat saw some of that in the second half, but Spoelstra made it clear the better last 24 minutes (particularly the last 12) was more about effort than the adjustments they made (such as playing more Haywood Highsmith and putting him on Jokić for a while).

“I never point to the scheme. Scheme is not going to save us,” Spoelstra said. “It’s going to be the toughness and resolve, collective resolve. That’s us at our finest, when we rally around each other and commit to doing incredibly tough things. That’s what our group loves to do more than anything, to compete, to get out there and do things that people think can’t be done.

“The efforts made that work in the second half, but we’re proving that we can do that with our man defense, too.”

Among the things many people don’t think can be done is the Heat coming back in this series. But Spoelstra is right, proving people wrong is what the Heat have done all playoffs.