It is the night before the NBA draft and for Jakob Poeltl, that means his life will change in the next 24 hours. When Poeltl hears his name called on Thursday evening, the 7-1 center from Utah will officially become the first Austrian ever in the NBA. For Utah it will be the first time a player has been drafted in the lottery since Andrew Bogut was selected no. 1 overall in 2005.
Poeltl's decision to enter the draft back in April was expected. He has nothing left to prove at the collegiate level short of winning an NCAA title. This past season he took a giant step forward, from promising talent in his freshman season to bona fide college star in his sophomore season. He cleaned up on the award circuit winning Pac-12 Player of the Year, Pete Newell Big Man Award, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year, was a four time Pac-12 Player of the Week and a consensus All-American.
A true 7-footer with good ball skills, Poeltl is considered a unique talent by NBA scouts. His improvement in free throw shooting and ability to improve his physicality under the basket this past season have shown he has the ability to improve and adapt, a trait that will be needed to succeed in the NBA.
With his bags packed and ready to go, where can Poeltl expect to go? A popular destination being bandied about for Poeltl is Milwaukee. It makes sense. The Bucks need someone in their front court and help defensively in the post. While they would probably love to get their hands on the likes of Dragan Bender from Croatia or Henry Ellenson, a local kid from Marquette, those two could very well be off the board when the Bucks pick at no. 10. Poeltl would provide them with a true center that can protect the rim and is surprisingly deft at running the floor. The Magic have also been mentioned as a destination one spot later at no. 11 for pretty much the same reasons as Milwaukee.
However if for whatever reason both those teams decide to go a different direction with their pick, sitting there at no. 12 is the Utah Jazz. Poeltl might not seem like an obvious fit with the Jazz, but Walt Perrin has said they will take the best player available and if Poeltl is still there when the Jazz pick, he'll likely be the best player on the board. The Jazz don't have any immediate needs in the post, but Poeltl would help provide depth behind Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors and would not be relied on in his rookie season, giving him plenty of time to develop. On top of that he is local, and has shown he is ok living in Salt Lake City, something not all former players have been amenable to. If this scenario plays out, Poeltl could unpack his bags and just take Trax down the hill to his new home.
It's difficult to say for sure where Poeltl will be selected tomorrow night however consensus seems to put him somewhere between no. 9 to the Raptors and no. 12 to the Jazz. The NBA Draft can be full of twists and turns with trades and unexpected picks so no one will know until his name is called. One thing is certain however. Whoever selects Poeltl will be getting the first Austrian to ever play in the NBA and a very talented and hard working player.
Th NBA Draft begins at 6pm MT. It will be televised on ESPN.