In just a few weeks, the Golden State Warriors will begin their title defense and face some tough competition. Although the Golden State Warriors could be better with players like Jordan Poole and Jonathan Kamminga taking another step forward and Klay Thompson rounding into form, Steph Curry could take a step back.
After all, Curry is 34 and has had six deep playoff runs since 2015, and those extra miles could begin to catch up with the two-time MVP. In fact, it already appears to have slowed four-time all-star Draymond Green down. As a result, the Golden State Warriors should be proactive in improving the roster rather than play wait and see.
Moreover, they should look to the San Antonio Spurs for reinforcements considering they’re in an extended rebuild. They have several interesting players, but Jakob Poeltl is the one that should most intrigue the Warriors.
After being acquired in the trade that sent Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors, Poeltl has quietly become one of the dozen best centers in the NBA while making less than $10 million next season. That puts him in the Warriors’ price range and would give them a big upgrade at center in the immediate future, but would mean sacrificing some future assets.
The Golden State Warriors shouldn’t hesitate to acquire Poeltl.
A potential trade involving Poeltl is fairly straightforward, with the Warriors shipping out James Wiseman and a future first-round pick to the Spurs for Poeltl. Giving up a first-rounder as well as the former No. 2 overall pick might make little sense to Warriors fans, who may still see him as a future cornerstone.
Despite that, he doesn’t seem to have much value in the NBA at the moment after playing below expectations during the 2020–21 season. He then missed more than 100 consecutive games, including all of last season as well as the team’s championship run. Moreover, he certainly isn’t worth the $9.6 million he’ll make next season, which is more than Poeltl, despite not being anywhere near as good.
Thus, the need for a future first to help balance things out. While it’s possible that Wiseman could still live up to his potential (although I’m skeptical), Poeltl would help the Warriors upgrade their championship roster, giving them a better chance to repeat. What’s the saying? “Flags fly forever.” If they indeed acquire Poeltl, and he’s as good of a fit as he appears to be on the computer screen, it would be worth that risk.
What would Jakob Poeltl bring to the Warriors?
At 7’1, Poeltl ranks as one of the tallest players in the NBA and is fairly mobile for his size, helping make him a highly effective defensive player.
Poeltl is among the best rim protectors in the league while also being able to defend capably away from the basket. He’d give the Warriors a defensive anchor who’s terrific at blocking and altering shots at the rim.
Pair him with Green, Andrew Wiggins, and a healthier Thompson, and the team’s defense might get a needed shot in the arm. Offensively, Poeltl come a long way and averaged a career-high 13.5 points per game last season on 61.8% shooting. He accomplished this by being a skilled roll man who sets hard-nosed screens before slipping to the basket and finishing with either a floater or a one-handed flush.
That would give the Warriors more vertical spacing and interior scoring while also helping free up players on and off the ball.
Coach Steve Kerr could even try using him as a facilitator like Spurs coach Gregg Popovich did. Poeltl was surprisingly effective in that role, especially when using direct handoffs. He averaged a respectable 2.8 assists per game in just 29 minutes per game and could thrive playing alongside more offensive weapons.
There is a notable flaw in Poeltl’s game, however: his free-throw shooting. He only hit 49.5% of his attempts last season, which prevented him from closing some games for the Spurs and resulted in him averaging fewer than 30 minutes per game. That’s a definite drawback, but far from a deal breaker, since Green often closes games at center for the Warriors.
Fortunately, he does offset some of those misses by being a dominant offensive rebounder. He finished fourth in the NBA last season with 3.9 offensive rebounds per game, and with either him or Kevon Looney on the floor most of the time, the Warriors would have an advantage on the glass and more offensive opportunities.
All in all, the Warriors may wait and see how things play out before looking to make a trade. However, Poeltl may be moved sooner rather than later, so they may not want to wait too long.