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Jakob Poeltl realizes he wasn’t the marquee name the San Antonio Spurs acquired when they dealt disgruntled forward Kawhi Leonard and swingman Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors.
No, top billing went to four-time All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan.
Even so, that hasn’t dampened Poeltl’s enthusiasm about joining an organization that has made the NBA playoffs for 21 consecutive seasons. And while becoming in the trade caught him off-guard, it didn’t take long for Poeltl to become keen to the idea of joining a San Antonio organization known for developing young talent.
Poeltl, the ninth overall pick in the 2016 draft by Toronto out of Utah, won’t turn 23 until Oct. 15.
“That is one of the things I am most excited about, just the fact that this program has such a big history of developing players,” Poeltl said, according to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. “Players that stay here or players that then go somewhere else and become really good players. So, I am really excited for the process. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I am looking forward to it.”
While backing up Jonas Valanciunas last season in Toronto, Poeltl carved his own niche. He shot 68.3 percent from eight feet last season, was sixth in the league in offensive-rebound percentage at 12.5 and is a skilled pick-and-roll player. The 7-foot, 248-pounder averaged 6.9 points and 4.8 rebounds, while playing all 82 games last season. He shot 65.9 percent from the field and 66.0 percent from the free-throw line. Defensively, he averaged 1.2 blocked shots per game.
Poeltl managed to do all of that in only 18.6 minutes per game. His per-36 minute averages were 13.4 points, 9.3 boards, 1.3 assists and 2.4 blocks last season, signifying his ceiling is much higher than has been displayed in his first two NBA seasons.
“I am not too proud to do the dirty work,” the Austrian said. “That’s how I have been for my whole basketball career — getting the work done.”
Poeltl doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty, so to speak, either.
“I do a lot of the little things out there, like just setting good screens, being in the right places, making the right reads off my teammates,” he said, according to Orsborn. “That’s my role right now, and I really enjoy that. But I am working on my game every single day in practice and I am trying to develop more offensively and defensively so I can take on more responsibilities in the future.”
In joining the Spurs, Poeltl will join six-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and veteran Pau Gasol, a two-time NBA champion, in the paint. Not to mention, the great Tim Duncan remains around the team.
All of which has Poeltl pumped up to be in San Antonio.
“Pau is like a really experienced big guy, a European guy I can learn a lot from,” Poeltl said. “Tim is around still helping out in practice and stuff. He is obviously one of the greatest, if not the greatest power forward of all time. So, yeah, there is more than enough bigs I can learn from.”