Right now, the United Center may be quieter than a mime convention. Loose connections are about all we have as the deadline looms, which is why the latest NBA rumors about Jakob Poeltl feels at least somewhat noteworthy.
Jared Weiss of The Athletic wrote about Boston’s interest in potentially pursuing Poeltl. The organization has reportedly expressed interest in the big man for quite some time, and Weiss recently shared that San Antonio’s asking price has remained lofty:
The sticking point has been, as always, price,” Weiss wrote. “San Antonio has made it known to interested parties throughout the league the Spurs want two first-round picks for Poeltl, according to team and league sources, which was the same stance they took on Derrick White last season.
These details come shortly after Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Poeltl continues to generate “significant interest” in the trade market, specifically name-dropping Boston and Toronto as interested parties. He also noted that the belief is Poeltl will generate somewhere around $20 million per year in unrestricted free agency this summer.
So, again, while there haven’t been any direct ties to the Bulls and Poeltl this season, I’m not sure we should ignore the ones made last year. Whether it be previous statements made about Lonzo Ball or DeMar DeRozan, we’ve seen months-old rumors eventually lead to fire several times before.
Not to mention, the Bulls’ interest in the Spurs’ center was reportedly great enough for them to make an offer. Long-time NBA insider Marc Stein shared last February that Chicago did send San Antonio an offer centered around a first-round pick, but the Spurs turned them away.
If the Bulls did start a rapport with the Spurs’ front office about Poeltl, who is to say they would not do it again? We can’t forget that Nikola Vucevic is also currently headed toward his own unrestricted free agency. If the plan isn’t to re-sign him, the Bulls would be wise to start searching for their starting center of the future ASAP.
Poeltl would surely make sense in Chicago. Not only does he have prior experience playing alongside DeMar DeRozan, but he’s also one of the NBA’s better rim protectors. Poeltl has finished with a positive defensive plus-minus every season since his rookie campaign. His 3.8 percent block percentage also ranks in the NBA’s 89th percentile, per Dunks & Threes. While he doesn’t at all offer the same kind of versatile scoring as Vucevic, he is an efficient post-finisher who can prove to be an equally reliable screen setter for both Zach LaVine and DeRozan.
Still, as obvious as the fit may seem for Chicago, there might be nothing they can do about this reported asking price. Investing two more first-rounders in a center only two seasons after doing the same for Vucevic (it would have to be the lottery-protected Portland pick and a 2027 pick … unless SA settles for Chicago removing the protections on the 2025 pick they got in the DeRozan deal) could prove to be an even more costly mistake. Plus, Chicago would send this draft capital out only to then hand Poeltl the biggest contract of his career.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to fill this defensive hole in the frontcourt if the plan is to continue building around LaVine and DeRozan. But paying a center the big bucks just isn’t what the NBA is founded on anymore. Do you really want those finances tied up in a center instead of two-way wings or guards?
I’m not ruling out the fact that Poeltl could be on the team’s radar. And I do think he’d prove to be a solid fit with Chicago. It’s just hard to think of a trade that satisfies both parties at the moment. I highly doubt the Spurs value someone like Coby White enough to want the upper hand when he hits restricted free agency. I think we can also say the same about Nikola Vucevic, who just doesn’t make sense for a rebuilding franchise. Maybe the front office can prove me wrong and get creative (I would mind it), but I’ll assume for now Poeltl isn’t wearing red anytime soon.