NBA Draft stock watch: Utah C Jakob Poeltl

Jakob Poeltl is probably the most interesting potential prospect in this year’s NBA draft class. The Austrian seven-footer has taken a giant step forward in his sophomore season with the Utes and is averaging 17.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per contest while shooting a highly respectable 65 percent from the field. Throw in his weighing 235 pounds, and he has the makings of a respectable NBA center on aesthetics alone.

As a result of his excellent production this season, NBADraft.net projects Poeltl to be picked seventh overall in its latest mock draft and on numbers alone, that’s valid. The same goes for the site putting his pro comparison at fellow Ute Andrew Bogut.

But let’s pump the brakes, just for now. Poeltl, for all of his strengths, is not without flaws. Like most European centers, he grew up playing in a system that was fast-paced and very focused on the pick-and-roll, with the big men playing more of a face up game as opposed to working the low post. Poeltl has, to his credit, shown some improvement in playing with his back to the basket and using his size to draw contact and mismatches in the paint, but he is still very much learning the traditional methods of playing center in the United States.

And in spite of the fact that he comes with huge bust potential, Poeltl’s draft stock is surging. He is averaging 21.2 points and 8.6 rebounds over Utah’s last five games while shooting an eye-popping 70 percent from the field.

That’s all well and good, but the truth of the matter is that if Poeltl wants his stock to continue rising now and through the upcoming NCAA Tournament, he needs to be more aggressive on defense. He needs to go after every rebound as opposed to splitting his approach between that and letting the ball come to him. He needs to put more effort into blocking shots. He needs, to be blunt, to become a more complete player.

The good news is that Poeltl already has half the package and so long as he puts in some extra practice on defense, his draft stock should remain rock solid barring a major setback.

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*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports

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