As the Feb. 9 trade deadline nears, everyone seems to have an opinion about whether or not the Celtics need to make one final move to fortify their status as favorites heading into the playoffs.
Do they need a wing? A big? Someone who can play in both spots? I’ve personally been on team “They don’t need anyone” for a while now myself. This team has every piece necessary to win a championship. All that’s left is to do it.
Having said that, some of these names are enticing. OG Anunoby, Jae Crowder, Terrence Ross and Mo Bamba are all certainly players worth considering. The name that sticks out the most on the list, though, is Jakob Poeltl.
The Spurs big man, who reportedly turned down a four-year, $58 million extension offer, is expected to make a sizable chunk of change this offseason. With that in mind, does it make sense for the Celtics – who have reportedly expressed interest – to acquire him?
Poeltl – in addition to his work as the inspiration for the Wordle-themed NBA player guessing game Poeltl – is an excellent, versatile and polished player. The former No. 9 overall pick in 2016 is averaging 11.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.3 blocks this season while shooting 62.7 percent from the floor. He can play.
There are some obvious pros to his game. For starters, he doesn’t need the ball much to be successful. He’s a legit 7’1, which makes him a threat at the rim on both ends. Poeltl, 27, is efficient and team-oriented by nature, and he rarely detracts when he’s on the court.
He would fit in well with the Celtics from a personnel standpoint. Poeltl has played 68 games or more every season in his career, so he’s relatively durable. If Robert Williams is injured, or Al Horford needs rest, Poeltl is fully capable of filling the void.
Well that’s nice and all, but what about Luke Kornet? Is Poeltl better? With all due respect to Kornet, yes, Poeltl is better. He’s a more attack-minded player with a more dynamic offensive skill set. Kornet does the dirty work, but teams would have to actively worry about Poeltl more.
He doesn’t seem like someone who’s overly concerned with how great his role is as long as the team is winning. Poeltl wouldn’t disrupt anything the Celtics are trying to accomplish and has the personality and skill set to blend in immediately.
Plus, he has experience playing with Derrick White, which never hurts.
The Celtics would have the option to either keep him for just the rest of the season or re-sign him this offseason. Either way, one could easily argue that their championship chances would improve with him in the mix.
Now having said that, while Poeltl is dependable, he’s not going to wow anyone on a nightly basis. He doesn’t shoot 3’s, is a bit slow and sometimes has trouble switching onto speedy guards.
Yes, he is better than Kornet, but it may not be worth the extra cost to acquire him. He’s absolutely an upgrade, sure, but perhaps not enough of one to shake everything up.
It may not make sense to tinker with a nearly-perfect roster in search of a perfect one.
Poeltl is making $9.4 on the final year of a three-year, $26.3 million contract with the Spurs. It’s fair to assume he’ll expect more annually starting this offseason as an unrestricted free agent, and it may not behoove the Celtics to take on that kind of contract.
Let’s hop over to the ol’ NBA trade machine for a second. The Celtics would likely have give up a package along the lines of Payton Pritchard, another role player or two and a first-round pick or two, to acquire Poeltl, while avoiding going over the luxury tax threshold. That wouldn’t make much sense.
They also have Williams and Horford under contract and have to presumably pay Jaylen Brown and Grant Williams moving forward, which means they don’t really have a surefire and strategically sound way to make the trade work.
There are many reasons why this would make sense. The Celtics and Spurs have been trade partners in the past. Poeltl would fit in well on the court. He’s in his prime and has improved consistently throughout his career. He doesn't seem to have any sort of ego.
But, the reality is that it doesn’t make sense for either side – either short term or long term. The Celtics wouldn’t realistically be able to give the Spurs what they want, and they also wouldn’t be able to pay Poeltl moving forward without jeopardizing their core.
While it’s intriguing in some ways, it’s ultimately not worth it. Poeltl may help, but he wouldn’t put the Celtics over the top.
There are wiser options, and the wisest option of all may be to do absolutely nothing.