The return of Jakob Poeltl wasn’t what Toronto Raptors’ fans were expecting. The 7-1 center does provide Toronto with a solution to its perceived lack of experience and size at the center position. Toronto must take full advantage of the newly acquired asset, who was averaging 12.1 points, and 9.0 rebounds per game on 61% shooting in 26 minutes per game with San Antonio.
His rebounding average could help a roster whose defensive rebounding woes hurt their overall defensive play. The roster also surrenders 9.4 offensive rebounds per game, giving opponents too many second-chance opportunities.
With 24 games now left, the Raptors will need to win 14 to break even on the season, highlighting why acquiring Poeltl could devalue their draft position this year and not really help the team do anything meaningful in the playoffs if they even get there.
However, Bobby Webster and Masai Ujiri have given themselves the flexibility to work under the salary cap this offseason to remake this team. Knowing that Poeltl will likely man the center spot on a reasonable contract means that they will no longer have to spend most of the offseason hunting for an upgrade.
Rather than moving off one of their starters for a center upgrade, Ujiri could be in a position to take the best offer available in order to beef up the bench.
How will the Raptors remake the roster around Jakob Poeltl?
In one scenario, the Raptors could lose all three of Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., and Jakob Poeltl for nothing, but free up significant cap space. This would be the nightmare scenario, as VanVleet and Trent are the best shooters on a team that is fourth worst shooting the three at 33.6%.
However, doom and gloom is likely the least likely scenario to play out. What is more likely is either VanVleet or Trent playing elsewhere. VanVleet being the smallest player on the roster does not fit Toronto’s tall, long, and versatile defender philosophy.
With a $130 million contract potentially coming up in the offseason, the Raptors could get a haul in a hypothetical sign-and-trade or hit the ground running with all of the cap space they will have freed up.
For what it is worth, Trent appears to love living and playing in Toronto.
Ultimately, if VanVleet is deleted from the equation via sign and trade or simply walking away, Trent and Poeltl’s contracts could be managed under the salary cap much easier. The Raptors do hold Bird Rights for Poeltl, meaning they can go over the cap limit to retain his rights.
Finally, OG Anunoby rumors have persisted since the end of last season about him not being happy with his role in Toronto.
His reply to the truth of his situation: “No. It is what it is,”
Should Anunoby be moved as well after some initial resistance to such a move, Toronto could quickly and cheaply get themselves a bench that fixes their shooting woes This flexibility to either free up cap space or acquire future assets will have long-term ramifications, as Pascal Siakam could need his contractual situation settled.
Signing Poeltl will check a big offseason box for the Raptors, meaning they don’t have to pay top dollar for a starting center rigidly and can instead remake the roster around him. With a record of 26-31, it is not wise to maintain the status quo.