Utah Jazz Draft Prospects 2015: Jakob Poeltl

March 30th, 2015 | by Dakota Schmidt
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(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)


In last week’s post on Kelly Oubre, I put a lot of emphasis on this decision for the Jazz during June’s draft: between drafting the high upside talent that will need time to develop (Oubre) or picking a player that contribute from the start (Kaminsky). Today, we’re going to continue to look at players that fit into the first category, as we take a look at Utah Utes center Jakob Poeltl.

The story of Jakob Poeltl is very different from the prospects that we’ve talked about, but yet seems very familiar. In a standard U-18 European Championship game against the Netherlands, Poeltl played seemingly played his typical brand of basketball. However, that day was far from ordinary, as Utah Utes assistant coach Andy Hill sat in the stands marveling at Poeltl’s incredible speed and skill for a 7-foot, 235 pound prospect. And during that day, the unknown Poeltl seemingly went from being an unknown to standout prospect in a matter of hours.

The moment you lay your eyes on Jakob Poeltl and watch him play, you can instantly see what made Andy Hill salivate. For a 7-footer, Poeltl continuously displays a level of quickness only matched by the Kentucky duo of Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl Towns. The similarities that Poeltl shares with that duo continues, as the Utah center is able to combine that quickness with an intense style of play.

While that aggressive mindset has led to Poeltl having a bit of a issue with forcing fouls (averages 4.6 fouls per 40 minutes), it also leads to some extremely positive aspects. One of those positives would be how he helped lead Utah into being one of the best defensive units in all of college basketball. According to kenpom, the Utes kept opponents from shooting only 41% from inside the 3-point line, which put them 5th in the nation.

Although the entire Utes team had some role behind that defensive success, Poeltl was perhaps the biggest catalyst. Poeltl averaged 3.3 blocks per 40 minutes, which would put him 5th among draft-eligible players. To accomplish that, Poeltl has tremendous defensive instincts, as he usually seems to be in the correct position to make the defensive stop.

As witnessed in Utah’s season-ending loss against Duke, Poeltl has the tendency of being the worst nightmare for the opponent, who this time happened to be potential #1 pick Jahlil Okafor. During the course of that game, Poeltl repeatedly prevented Okafor from being able to get good post-up position. That feat is pretty amazing as the 235-pound Poeltl has a significant size disadvantage against the massive 270-pound Okafor.

That persistence continues to be evident by how well he works on the glass. Both offensively and defensively, Poeltl seems to be a pretty disciplined rebounder as he’s very diligent with box outs, which allows him to create a large area to capture the ball. That effort is backed up by Poeltl averaging 4.6 offensive boards per 40 minutes, which is only eclipsed by Okafor and Arkansas’ Bobby Portis.

Aside from his work on the offensive glass, Poeltl stands as a raw product from that end of the court. Inside Larry Krystkowiak’s offense, Poeltl is mainly used as a screen and roll partner for Delon Wright or any of Utah’s guards. And in that set, Poeltl stands as a pretty capable player. He does a nice job of moving off-ball after the screen while also showing off an ability to catch the ball and score in one clean motion. During penetration, Poeltl regularly is able to draw contact while still being able to keep the focus necessary to score.

While he might not be in the same galaxy with Okafor as a post-up player, he does have some ability in that particular area. Particularly on the right block, Poeltl does look pretty confident as he takes the time needed to get in position, and launch a pretty smooth right-handed hook. However, opposing teams have learned that if they do double-team Poeltl, he tends to turn the ball over. That turnover issue is evident by Poeltl averaging 2.8 TO’s per 40 minutes.

The area where Poeltl will need to continue to work on over the course of his career is his work on the free-throw line. In more than 6 attempts per 40 minutes, Poeltl shoots 43% from the charity stripe. While that average is definitely bad on the surface, it could prevent him from developing as a post-up weapon, as opponents may try to foul Poeltl before he even gets a chance to get comfortable enough to launch up that right-handed hook.

In a similar mold to Kelly Oubre, the addition of Jakob Poeltl to the Jazz could continue to improve Utah’s already elite defensive front-court. Like Oubre, Poeltl’s aggressive defensive approach could help give the team’s 2nd unit a solid defensive anchor that they haven’t really had since Gobert transitioned into the starting lineup after the Kanter trade. That position in Utah’s 2nd unit could allow Poeltl to evolve and grow as a player without putting a lot of pressure on the young prospect.

Dakota Schmidt

A Wisconsinite who spends way too much time watching mediocre basketball. Started to love the game as I watched the "Big 3" era of the Bucks in the early 2000's but was eventually raised on the teams lead by the likes of Michael Redd, Desmond Mason and Andrew Bogut. Those mediocre teams helped me grow an appreciation for the less than spectacular style of basketball which has lead me to different gigs with Queen City Hoops (Bobcats), Ridiculous Upside (D-League) and now Salt City Hoops.

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  1. UtahsMrSports says:

    Great Breakdown! As an avid Utes fan, I have watched Poeltl a lot this year. I think Poeltl’s NBA comparison is Omer Asik, and I think he will eventually get to that level. If he declares, I don’t think he is ready to be even a backup NBA center, but after a year or two of seasoning, he could be terrific.

  2. Crabbers says:

    No offense, but if you think that Poeltl was the catalyst behind Utah’s defense, you weren’t paying much attention. For one thing, Utah’s defense has been top-flight since Krystkowiak came here. For another thing, the Utes defense didn’t change one jot when Poeltl sat. Even with Olsen in (the worst defender at the 5, maybe overall on the team), the defense was still great. There are two reasons for that: scheme, and Delon Wright. Scheme is what did it for them 3 and 4 years ago. Delon Wright is what’s been making it better since then.

    As far as Poeltl goes, he’s too much of a long-term prospect. Unless he spends every waking moment from now until training camp, he almost certainly will not have an NBA-ready body by next year. And if he did put on that much muscle that fast, he would probably lose much of what makes him a great player. Poeltl isn’t a guy who you’re looking at and wondering how he develops (like, say, Dante Exum). You know exactly what he needs. It’s just not going to come fast enough. And unless the Jazz want to draft him and send him to Boise, I just don’t see the point in taking Poeltl.

    As a Ute I’m also desperately hoping that Poeltl listens to his mother (who has said that he only came to America when he did to get a damned degree) and stays in school for at least one more year. Besides, drafting a 5 only makes sense if we’re not bringing Tomic over.

    • UtahsMrSports says:

      Amen to this. I really hope he stays, because we are in some trouble if not.

      Truth be told, I think Jakob is not a good fit for the Jazz, but I do hope that he finds the right fit.

  3. Spencer says:

    It is unanimous so far. Poelti is not a fit for the Jazz for all the reasons you said. This is crazy to say, but that Jazz do not need any more post defense, if they draft a big, he needs to be able to stretch the floor and defend on the perimeter otherwise he is not going to be a good fit into he rotation next to Favors and Gobert. Poelti will never be that guy obviously. Kevin Looney, Winslow, Johnson, Hezonja, Portzingis, Oubre, Jerian Grant, Sam Dekker, Kaminsky, Devin Booker, etc etc all have more appeal than Poelti with the Jazz. It really comes down to this, why draft the one thing we know we have in spades when there is so much talent where we are lacking in this draft?

    Give me a shooter and/or a wing with high upside or a big combo guard like Grant. Lots of choices this year, even at the 12th pick.

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