It can be hard to remember that NBA players are human beings who forge relationships with their best friends on the team, and the NBA trade deadline can often be emotionally draining for players like Jakob Poeltl, who just saw some of his best friends get sent packing.
Just a few months after Poeltl's return to the Raptors and his commitment to play alongside Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, the Austrian big man has seen both of his former teammates traded away to Eastern Conference rivals in the Pacers and Knicks, respectively, as the team begins a rebuild.
Poeltl signed with Toronto expecting a postseason push, and getting rid of Siakam left him on a declining team without his support system. Poeltl acknowledged how difficult playing after the move can be.
“It was tough because he was the guy I was closest to on this team,” Poeltl said about Pascal. "I guess I was mentally prepared for it a little bit already because there were so many rumors...but it’s still really sad for me to basically lose my best friend on the team.” Poeltl warned against rebuilding and taking, saying he wants to play for a team "trying to win every night."
Jakob Poeltl misses Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby after Toronto Raptors trades.
Poeltl's trade might have been a bit rich for him, but he can provide immense value as a finisher, rebounder, passer, and shot-blocker who makes things click on both sides of the ball at his best. His contract is expensive, but his value has already been proven.
The Raptors haven't looked the same on either side of the ball since Poeltl's injury, as they have no height on the inside to stop teams from driving to the basket. On offense, his presence as a screener and passer is needed. Jontay Porter has been trying, but he doesn't have the skills needed to replicate Poeltl.
Poeltl might be in for another tough 2024-25 season, as the only way for the Raptors to contend for a postseason spot next season is either Scottie Barnes, RJ Barrett, or Immanuel Quickley taking such a gigantic leap that all expectations of a down year will fade away almost immediately.
Poeltl will likely play a big part in Toronto's turnaround, as he is such a reliable player that it would be very difficult to find someone who can replace him on a budget. Losing Siakam and Anunoby still must hurt, especially when he signed thinking they would stick around.