The Toronto Raptors have a serious problem on their hands in the starting lineup, as the presence of both Jakob Poeltl and Dennis Schroder seems to be handicapping the overall offensive vision. Some have called for one of them to be sent to the bench soon.
With a matchup against Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers coming up, Darko Rajakovic leaned on Poeltl once again. While Toronto put forth a terrible second-half showing that saw them blow a 13-point lead, Poeltl at least had his day in the sun.
The Raptors lost 121-111, but that is to be expected. They are a bad team, and bad teams lose games like this. However, in the time of the NBA season all about finding silver linings in an otherwise unwatchable sea of pap, Poeltl is starting to look like a player that Toronto can build a winner with at center.
Despite the daunting challenge of going up against Embiid, Poeltl finished with 19 points and eight rebounds while limiting Embiid to just a handful of made shots in the first half. Even as the losses start to pile up, Toronto should feel very confident in Poeltl as a long-term piece if he keeps performing like this.
Jakob Poeltl impresses in horrendous Toronto Raptors loss to 76ers.
One of Poeltl's biggest issues this year was his inability to escape the mediocre tier. Whenever he played a center who was not as talented as him on either end, he managed to thrive. Against some of the better big men in the league, like Embiid, his limitations started to show.
While Embiid did catch fire in the second half, the $80 million man should still be commended for being as productive as he was when matched up with the MVP. Considering what a tumultuous week he had, the fact he was this productive could be a building block to something greater.
Rajakovic singled out Poeltl after some very poor games in the last few weeks, including a two-game stretch where he was benched for the majority of a win against the Hornets and totaled just eight points in two games. In a season with so little to write home about outside of Scottie Barnes, Poeltl's game against Embiid was solid.
The Raptors are not going to win anything of value for this season, and they lack any draft capital in next year's class. The best thing fans can root for at this point in time is for players who project to be on the 2024-25 team to strut their stuff and play well, and Poeltl's solid night against Philadelphia should give fans some minimal positive vibes.