Checking in on former Toronto Raptors, DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl

(Photos by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photos by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

This past offseason, the Toronto Raptors traded away fan favourites, DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl. Half a season later, we check in on how they’re doing.

The Toronto Raptors have been without two fan favourites from 2018. Over the summer they sent a protected 2019 first-round draft pick along with DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl to the San Antonio Spurs.

This was the blockbuster deal that landed Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green on the Raptors. While we in Toronto have been able to watch Green and Leonard become major contributors for the Raptors, we can no longer easily watch DeRozan and Poeltl ball on a consistent basis.

DeMar DeRozan

The Spurs are having a solid season. They have had a winning record every month including an impressive 15-5 in November. Their play has been good enough to put them in a playoff position in a loaded West that changes by the day.

A key reason for their success is the contribution the Spurs are getting from DeMar DeRozan. He has gained the confidence of his coach, Gregg Popovich. Pop has allowed DeRozan to play to his strengths without trying to convert him into a different player.

Raptor fans were used to seeing number 10 take mid-range jumpers and get himself to the free throw line. Prior to last season, DeRozan did what many in the league have in this hero ball era, he tried to add greater range to his shot.

The Spurs star is now bucking the trend and ignoring the lower percentage shot in favour of two points. In fact, he leads the NBA in two-point attempts taken this season. In 2018, DeRozan took 3.6 three-pointers per game. This season, he is averaging less than one per contest.

DeRozan is still scoring in bunches. He’s averaging nearly 22 points per game, good for first on the team. He also leads in assists with an impressive 6.4 per contest. This is the same total as the point guard tandem of Derrick White (3.6) and Patty Mills (2.2) combined.

DeRozan is undoubtedly the most important part of San Antonio’s offense. He also leads the team in steals and is collecting over six rebounds per game. He has accepted his role and is continuing to shine as an elite player in 2019.

Jakob Poeltl

The only member of the blockbuster deal who hasn’t demonstrated excellence is the often forgotten piece, Poeltl. Before the season began, analysts were concerned that the punch from the Raptors bench might be in jeopardy without Poeltl.

It would have been nearly impossible to predict that the production the Raps would get from their 2018-19 centers would be as impressive as it was before Jonas Valanciunas dislocated his thumb. The Raptors strength in the post is due in-part to Serge Ibaka’s position change and strong play from Valanciunas. Even Greg Monroe has been excellent, doing everything he can to burden the load in the paint.

If Poeltl remained in Toronto, he would have been the odd man out and likely would occupy the position currently filled by Monroe. This suggests that his role would have been diminished. Poeltl’s value to the Raptors was greatest as a trade chip. Perhaps, this is why Bobby Webster and Masai Ujiri were willing to part with the seven-foot Austrian.

The Spurs likely saw Poeltl in a different light and not simply as a throw-in to complete a deal. In Toronto, he was impressive on the offensive end, gaining great adulation for his footwork.  He showed and maintains great potential. The Spurs were hoping that this acquisition would provide a great improvement to their frontcourt. With his age and ability, they believed that they may have added the center of their future.

Things did not go as planned in San Antonio to start the season. The Spurs intended to give Poeltl the opportunity to shine with his new team. Popovich started Poeltl for his first three games. In them, he averaged 11 minutes, 2 points, 1.3 assists, and 3.7 rebounds. With that line, it is not a surprise that the big man was then moved to the bench.

Unfortunately, the change did not yield the results they were hoping for. Poeltl continued to struggle. Despite the slow start, he was given the chance to show that he can be a valuable member of the team. Popovich began giving Poeltl more time on the floor. He is now averaging 15.4 minutes for the season. In that time he is only getting 5.5 points each game.

While he nor his team can be happy with his accomplishments this year, there is no reason to give up hope that the former Raptor can reach his potential. He is finding himself while working in a new system.

Playing behind LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs number two option, Poeltl knows his role on the team. He needs to be ready when he’s asked to check-in and demonstrate the agility that turned heads when he was in Toronto. Playing for arguably the best coach in the NBA, Poeltl is in a favourable position to find his rhythm and eventually take his game to the next level.

dark. Next. Case For/Against Including the 2021 First Round Pick

DeRozan and Poeltl will always be linked to Leonard and Green, whether fair to the players or not. Time will tell how the deal will be evaluated for each team. As of right now, all the players involved can be satisfied with their current positions.