Big man jakob poeltl was traded by the San Antonio Spurs to the Toronto Raptors just before the NBA Trade Deadline. The Austrian center was sent north of the border for a protected 2024 first-round selection, Canadian slotman Khem Birch, and two upcoming second-round picks. It was a chance for Poeltl and the Raptors to reunite. Recall that Toronto selected him in the 2016 draft. Here we will look at what grade we will give to the Spurs and Raptors after the Jakob Poeltl trade.
Keep in mind that the Raptors have been interested in acquiring Poeltl for some time. That is understandable given their lack of a long-term solution at center. They reportedly made inquiries about him prior to finally making the trade just before the deadline.
This move may actually come as a surprise to Spurs fans, though. Take note that many previous reports and predictions said that the team was seeking no less than two first-round picks for Jakob Poeltl. The team was even reportedly considering re-signing him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer. We cannot blame loyal San Antonio fans for maybe scratching their heads. As of now, the reason for the team’s change in stance remains unclear. However, maybe the front office simply tried to get as much from Poeltl before he eventually left for free agency. Maybe they knew something we didn’t. Maybe they had no plans of re-signing him after all.
As such, despite Poeltl’s being a valuable player for the Spurs, trading him was the right decision now. The Spurs can now squarely focus on acquiring more draft picks. Meanwhile, the Raptors have addressed their need for a center, at least on paper. It remains to be seen how well he fits in with his new team on the court.
That said, let us look at what grade we will give to the Raptors and Spurs.
Grading the Jakob Poeltl trade
It is widely acknowledged that the Raptors have had a shortage of size at center. In fact, we’ve seen guys like Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby fill the spot in the middle. Jakob Poeltl comes in and immediately addresses that need. Standing at 7’1 with a 7-foot wingspan, Poeltl has the physique to be a dominant force near the basket. He has also established himself as an excellent rebounder and rim defender. While he may not be a high-scoring player, he is effective in his role. Coach Nick Nurse should utilize Poeltl’s size to create opportunities as a roller and cutter.
He is currently averaging 12.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game this season. Poeltl is also shooting 62.3 percent from the field. Again, he already has a familiar connection with Raptors players Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and coach Nurse. This should make for a smooth transition.
Poeltl is a skilled player who can initiate the offense from the elbows. He can also roll through defenses with enough space and disrupt opposing entry passes. Of course, he can rebound aggressively and provide a strong presence around the basket.
As for erstwhile Raptors player Khem Birch, he had a promising start to his Raptors career. However, he has since struggled with injuries and limited playing time. The picks the Raptors gave up in the trade cannot be fully evaluated without considering the protection and potential future deals. Still, given Poeltl’s fit with the team and the cost, this deal could be favorable for the Raptors. That of course hinges on one big assumption — that they plan to re-sign him in the upcoming offseason. If Poeltl turns out to be a three-to-four-month rental, well, then this puts Toronto in bad shape. We’re optimistic, though. Masai Ujiri won’t do a deal like this if they’re not willing to commit.
Final Grade: A-
The Toronto Raptors are acquiring San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl for Khem Birch, a protected 2024 first-round draft pick and two future second-round picks, sources tell ESPN. pic.twitter.com/9Iz7KFCd20
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 9, 2023
San Antonio Spurs
Surprising or disappointing as this may look for Spurs fans, this is the kind of move the team should make. At 27 years old and soon to become a free agent, Jakob Poeltl could potentially earn up to $20 million per year. That’s according to reports by The Athletic and Shams Charania.
That makes this trade work for the Spurs. San Antonio just should not heavily invest in veterans who do not align with their long-term timeline. The only exception would be if they believe Poeltl’s next contract would be a more valuable asset than it is currently. Apparently, that’s not the case.
Meanwhile, absorbing the additional year of Birch’s contract is no problem at all. They have the financial flexibility to do so. In fact, this deal also opened up $2.7 million in immediate cap space for them.
On the flip side, the protections on Toronto’s pick could potentially make this a bit of a risk. Remember that the Raptors look headed toward the lottery this season. This means the Spurs could end up without a first-round pick if the Raptors do not experience a quick turnaround. However, acquiring two second-round picks compensates for this.
The Spurs basically freed up cap space and acquired more potential building blocks for their future. That’s not a shabby good haul, though they probably could have gotten a tad more.