It was about two months ago and two NBA advanced scouts were having a casual conversation during a game at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. The longtime scouts were discussing this year’s draft class, and exchanging notes on some of the top prospects.
When the name of Jakob Poeltl arose, they both agreed the 7-foot-1, 239-pound center from Utah was a talent. They also agreed they’d love to have him on their respective teams.
In fact, both scouts regarded the Poeltl as one of the elite players in this draft class and unequivocally the best center.
So, what has happened since those scouts gushed about Poeltl? Why is it now that every time you peruse an NBA mock draft, Poeltl isn’t near the top of the lottery but more towards the tailend of it?
HoopsHype.com has Poeltl going to the Toronto Raptors at No. 9. Ditto for nbadraft.net and draftexpress.com. ESPN.com predicts Poeltl will fall to 10, where the Milwaukee Bucks currently reside.
And those aforementioned websites may be correct in their prognostications. Then again … A veteran scouting director adamantly disagrees.
The scouting director, whose team will be picking in the lottery, contends Poeltl will be off the board before the Raptors or Bucks can gobble him up.
“He’s not getting to them,’’ the scouting director said, referring to the Raptors and Bucks. “Strange things happen in drafts, but he’s a top six pick.’’
A top six pick?
Such is the debate surrounding Poeltl, who is coming off a stellar sophomore seasons for the Utes. The 20-year-old Poeltl was a force at both ends of the floor: He averaged 17.3 points while shooting 64 percent from the field, and grabbed 9.1 rebounds with 1.5 rejections a game.
Is it any wonder then why Larry Krystkowiak, Poeltl’s coach at Utah, is the head of the Poeltl fan club?
Krystkowiak simply raves about Poeltl, although he insists he doesn’t have a clue about where Poeltl will be selected in the draft on June 23.
What Krystkowiak does know is that Poeltl has all the tools to be successful at the next level.
“Jakob is really gifted,’’ said Krystkowiak, who played nine years in the NBA, four with the Bucks. “He’s a 7-footer that’s super athletic.
“He was really good agility. We switched sometimes on defense and he was able to defend guards. He’s not a slow-footed big man. He runs the floor really well.
“And he’s got a great set of hands. If you throw the ball at his feet or three feet over his head, he’ll still get his mitts on it.’’
While Krystkowiak is convinced Poeltl has the necessary physical attributes, he is quick to point out that Poeltl has some key intangibles that the casual observer wouldn’t know about.
“Jakob is really smart and he really loves the game,’’ Krystkowiak said. “He loves to be coached; he’s constantly learning. He has a lot of intangibles that lead me to believe he’ll be pretty successful in th NBA.’’
Asked if he could compare Poeltl to some other player, Krystkowiak paused and said, “Not really. Well, maybe a little bit like Rik Smits without the range.
He’s one guy who comes to mind. But Jacob is pretty unique. He’s hard to compare to someone else.’’
Smits, aka The Dunking Dutchman, enjoyed a productive 12-year pro career with the Indiana Pacers and played an integral role in helping the Pacers make the playoffs in 10 of them.
Krystkowiak envisions Poeltl being a key contributor for some NBA team as well, noting how the latter’s game is still trending upward.
“He’s made some great strides; he’s addressed his weaknesses from his freshman year,’’ Krystkowiak said. “He just keeps getting better and betterWhoever lands him is going to get a pleasant surprise.’’
photo by Utah Athletics Communications