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Some thought Jakob Poeltl might declare for the draft last season after his freshman year at Utah. He helped take the Utes to the Sweet 16 while averaging 9.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and nearly two blocks per game. Instead, Poeltl – who is Austrian – spent the summer playing for his country’s national team before returning to college.
In addition to the extra international competition, he played well in his second season with Utah. As a sophomore, Poeltl averaged 17.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. While his block rate dipped, he doubled his assist rate to 13.9. His field goal percentage in his second year was a still-eye-popping 64.6 percent, and he dramatically improved his free throw shooting, going from 44.4 percent (on 3.6 attempts per game) in his first year to 69.2 percent (on 6.6 attempts). As a result, Poeltl was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year. He also won the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Pete Newell awards for big men.
Going back to school (or staying in Europe) can be a dicey decision. It looks like it worked out nicely for Poeltl.
Poeltl is a monster on the block. He made 59 percent of his shots when guarded one-on-one, according to DraftExpress and Synergy Sports. He has good traditional post moves on the offensive end, and, as mentioned, he went from being pretty much a non-existent passer to a capable one. Of particular note: his passing got better out of the double-team. He’s got good footwork and hands for a big man, though he’s not an explosive athlete.
His game at both ends is going to be about the rim. According to DraftExpress, he finished 69 percent of his shots at the rim in the half-court set. Defensively, he has some shot blocking ability, but he’s not super springy. He should be capable as a rim protector, but he’s not going to end up as a top-tier guy on that front.
The free throw shooting is also encouraging. That’s a massive jump to take. In a league where hack-a-big is an increasingly popular late-game strategy, having big men who aren’t liabilities at the line is important.
He’s a big guy in a league that’s trending small. He’s not an explosive athlete. He doesn’t shoot from distance (or even from any spot on the floor that isn’t really close to the basket). He’s an OK, not great, rebounder. He still needs to work on his passing.
Poeltl’s ascension has been rapid. He ended up at Utah, which is, traditionally, a good program. But the Utes haven’t produced a top-10 NBA pick since Andrew Bogut, and several other schools passed on Poeltl before Utah took a shot on him.
How he’d fit with the Sixers
What’s the opposite of well? The Sixers currently have … hold on while we check just to make sure … all the big men. They do not need another one. No chance of him landing in Philly unless there’s some strange rip in the space-time continuum that dumps all of us into a weird parallel universe where the Sixers are without big men and the NBA is dominated by them.
Let’s see: we’re looking for a post player with good (if old school) offensive moves, someone who is a serviceable rebounder and rim protector but not great at either. Something like 10 years ago there might have been quite a few guys to compare him to, but the league has gone a decidedly different way. A not-as-good Bogut? An approximation of Timofey Mozgov? A man-child mashup of the two? Something like that.
Mid- to late-lottery. Has to find a team that’s looking for a traditional big.