Jakob “The Turtle” Poeltl had a solid season for the Raptors. He didn’t have much of a role at the start of the season when he played just 12 games combined in November and December. However, he was able to carve out a role post all-star break when he played in 22 games.
Jakob Poeltl’s post all-star per 36 minutes stats
Jakob Poeltl should see his role increase next season. He played well enough this season to become the primary backup at the center position for the Raptors if the opportunity presents itself. This may only happen if one of Jonas Valanciunas or Serge Ibaka isn't on the roster next season. The speculation is that the Raptors want to bring Ibaka back, but we won’t really know until July 1st. As for Valanciunas, it’s hard to gauge whether the Raptors will trade him. On one hand, Valanciunas and Dwane Casey probably aren’t a good marriage, but on the other, Valanciunas’s trade value is at an all-time low. Raptors President, Masai Ujiri, is NOT one to sell low on an asset.
Summary of Masai’s trades with the notable players listed
1) Got a 1st round lottery pick for Andrea Bargnani (and his bloated salary)
2) Got Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez for Rudy Gay (this trade turned the Raptors into a playoff team)
3) Traded John Salmons non-guaranteed contract for Lou Williams and Lucas Nogueira
4) Got a 1st and 2nd round pick (Norman Powell) for Greivis Vasquez
5) Traded Terrence Ross and a 1st round pick for Serge Ibaka
6) Got a 2nd round pick for Jeff Weltman
Masai’s patience has paid off on the trade front. This leads me to believe that if a good deal isn’t out there for Jonas Valanciunas he won’t trade him. Assuming Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas are still on the roster next season it puts a ceiling on Poeltl’s role.
Projected Center Minutes Distribution
Jonas Valanciunas 20-25MPG
Serge Ibaka 5-13MPG (primarily play 20-25MPG at PF)
Jakob Poeltl 15-18MPG
What about Bebe?
Lucas Nogueira may very well fall victim to the Raptors being deep at center. He was a useful player this season pre-all-star break but fell out of the rotation with the emergence of Jakob Poeltl and newly acquired Serge Ibaka. Bebe could be a useful player on another team, but it’s hard to imagine him having a significant role on the Raptors going forward if the Raptors keep their bigs.
Jakob Poeltl passes the eye test with flying colors
Let us put Jakob Poeltl’s stats aside for a second. If you watched him play you would have seen a guy who plays hard on both ends. Yes, he has little to no range with his shot, but he doesn’t need one. Defensively, Poeltl wasn’t afraid of standing his ground and showed he could position for rebounds. Offensively, Jakob showed he could finish around the bucket, but even when he didn’t he would go hard after his misses to attack for the second chance points. This mentality is one that has been missing on the Raptors for years. To have a guy that doesn’t quit on a play even when the play looks like it might be over can be the difference between winning and losing. The Raptors had defensive toughness in Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker this season and now they have offensive toughness in Poeltl.
Was Poeltl a good pick?
Jakob Poeltl remains an unsexy good draft pick. At the time Bismack Biyombo was a free agent, so the Poeltl pick was insurance at the center position. Yes, Thon Maker is looking like he may have been the sexier pick, but at the time he was projected to go late in the first round. Jakob Poeltl may never be an all-star, but there’s a good chance he could be a very good player in the NBA for years to come.