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What will Australian big man Jock Landale contribute in his first year with the San Antonio Spurs? | Preseason Profile

After the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio struggled a bit with center depth and big-man shooting. Landale should help.

SAN ANTONIO — In one of the most under-the-radar acquisitions of the entire NBA offseason, the Spurs signed Jock Landale of Australia.

After the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio struggled a bit with center depth and big-man shooting. Bringing in the versatile Landale should help address those concerns.

At 25 years old, Landale was one of the top players in Australia’s NBL, which is one of the best pro basketball leagues in the world. Last year he led the NBL in blocks, field goal percentage (.545), and effective field goal percentage (.607). He was sixth in the league in points and second in rebounds and was named Grand Final MVP after leading Melbourne to a title in the championship series.

He won’t be asked to do as much on offense at the NBA level, but Landale’s play in the NBL showed that he has the skill to score in a variety of ways. He moves well without the rock, sets physical screens and rolls hard to the basket, and can get up to catch a lob and throw it down if the situation demands it. He can also catch on the block and use strength and finesse to put the ball in the hole. His footwork is well-practiced, his hook shot is smooth with either hand, and he isn’t afraid to create space with physicality. The big man has a solid understanding of how to get to open space, and his big paws are wonderful for catching passes in traffic.

Put him at the top of the arc, and he can find a cutter with a zippy overhead pass or run the dribble handoff to perfection. He won’t dazzle you with his handle, but he can put the ball on the floor and even turn the corner after fooling a defender into flat-footedness with a slight pause. He doesn’t have to just roll to the basket after a screen either, as he’s shown special shooting for a player his size.

The 6’11” Aussie averaged over 16 points per game and hit 39% on almost 150 threes last year, and that skill may help him earn minutes for San Antonio this season considering Jakob Poeltl and Drew Eubanks are not floor spacers. Landale brings an added dimension, and it’s hard to overstate the importance of having a center who can force the other team’s rim protector to stand 20 feet away from the basket.

That shooting ability makes Landale dangerous as a trailer, dynamic as a screener, and a genuine triple threat when he catches the ball beyond the arc. 

In an interview with ESPN Australia in March, Landale spoke about what he thought a team might ask him to do at the next level.

“Going into an NBA team, they wouldn’t be like, ‘alright Jock, we need you to put up 15 and 7 a night,’” he said. “No, these guys will be like, ‘Yo, get out there, defend, run hard in transition, rebound and shoot open shots,’ and that’s the kind of basketball I think I can really excel in.”

Even Closky, our good friend and former co-host of the Big Fundamental Podcast, unknowingly echoed that sentiment almost verbatim. He covered Landale when he was at St. Mary's and said he was a floor general that they ran the offense through.

"If Landale landed in a different area of basketball, he would be a force," Closky said. "That's just not the case. So what he did (at the pro level) was kind of prove that he can shoot, which is important."

"What the Spurs have built now with Poeltl and Landale, I think is just a wonderful one-two punch," Closky said. "They now have centers who are going to be centers. 'Hey, go out there, I need you to set picks, I need you playing good defense, protecting the rim, getting rebounds. Don't worry about anything else, OK?'"

On the defensive end of the floor, Landale used his length and lateral quickness to deter shots at the basket and anchor Melbourne’s defense. He moves well in pick and roll and led the NBL with 1.5 blocks per game last year. He understands his role and team defense, and he’d be open to playing power forward in the NBA as well. He isn’t the best individual defender, especially out in space, but he plays with an edge that fans and coaches love to see. 

“If I get into the right system and play systematic basketball, which is where I feel like I really excel, there’s no reason I can’t funnel a four-man into a shot blocker,” Landale said a few months before he made the leap.

That tenacity seems to be present in everything Landale does on and off the court, as the grit and effort level are apparent. You can expect him to scream and shout after making a big play, and he isn’t afraid of the big moment. With the fourth quarter of Game 3 of the Grand Final winding down, he caught the ball late and beat the buzzer with a turnaround jumper that all but sealed the title for Melbourne.

This summer, Landale joined Patty Mills on the Australian national team and helped the Boomers win bronze, their first-ever medal at the Olympics. He averaged 12.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, hitting 42% from deep and 57% from two-point range.

Landale probably could have made the leap to the NBA sooner, but hasn’t been able to because of what he called bad career advice that impacted his eligibility.

“There’s a filthy taste in my mouth, I’m pissed off how things went and how they all got so messed up,” he said. “ I look at rosters, and guys who sign over me because I can’t sign with an NBA team, and I’m livid.”

“I’ve got ambitions, I want to go out there and play at a high level and play in the NBA and show people that, hey, even though I’m not as athletic as some of these guys, I sure as hell can outthink a lot of them.”

After graduating from St. Mary’s, NBA executives didn’t feel he had an NBA-level skill that would warrant giving him a roster spot. From his athleticism to his shooting ability and more, Landale has been improving with the goal of proving them wrong. He’ll finally get his shot in the best basketball league in the world.

“Now you look at my game, I can shoot the piss out of it, I can run a lot faster than guys up and down the court, so I’m a transition player,” he said. 

Landale looks like the kind of guy who can make an immediate two-way impact off the bench with his size, skill, and effort level. He hopes that one day his job at the NBA level will expand beyond that, but for now, he’s excited to play his role as a complimentary big for this San Antonio Spurs team. He couldn’t believe it when he got the call from his agent that his NBA dream would come true with one of his favorite teams.

“I've always idolized San Antonio as an organization, it was out of the blue and I'm really happy it's happened now,” he said. “First deal, I wanted to sign, and it just ended up being one of the teams I've always wanted to play for."

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