The Toronto Raptors have been projected to go in all sorts of wonky directions at the 2022-23 NBA trade deadline, as the idea of Toronto buying holds just as much validity as the idea of teaing everything down. Masai Ujiri wasted no time trying to add a win-now veteran, as Jakob Poeltl was reacquired by the team who drafted him ninth overall in 2016.
The Raptors acquired Poeltl in exchange for the poor contract of center Khem Birch, a protected first-round draft choice in 2024, and two future second-round picks. The Raptors, now in possession of the final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference, landed a star center that can make a difference.
The Raptors were in dire need of a rim-protecting center, and Poeltl provides that. While he is a free agent at the end of this season, he could be retained for a price that is much cheaper than what either Fred VanVleet or Gary Trent Jr. is going to cost.
San Antonio, meanwhile, is taking on salary filler in Birch and three draft picks for a player they likely were not going to hold onto in free agency.
Toronto Raptors acquire Jakob Poeltl from Spurs.
Poeltl is averaging 12.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game this season, making him one of the few bright spots on a Spurs team that is once again going nowhere. His talents will be better put to use in Toronto, where the Raptors can solve one of their biggest issues.
The Raptors giving up a pick to acquire Poeltl might seem peculiar, given how he is a rental, but they can still get a haul for one of their starters in a trade and free up the cap space needed to keep Poeltl in town long-term. This may not be the only move Toronto makes.
While there will be some genuine offensive concerns with this move, as Gary Trent Jr. is likely going to move to the bench and Toronto will lean on a group that can feature two serious non-shooters, the Raptors can correct this issue by making one more deadline-day move.
Just a few years after being included in the Kawhi Leonard trade, Poeltl is coming back to Toronto in exchange for a collection of assets that a Toronto team with eyes on making a postseason charge with many of these core players did not hold in very high regard. Time will tell how effective Poeltl is in his return.