ReGrade the Trade: Raptors cripple their future by investing in towering center

Jakob Poeltl, Toronto Raptors
Jakob Poeltl, Toronto Raptors / Jared C. Tilton/GettyImages
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Regrading the Trade

At the time of the deal, the Raptors looked like they were paying through the nose to take a low-percentage shot at regaining a playoff team. The likelihood that adding a non-shooting big to a team with two shooting-challenged forwards was going to significantly alter their trajectory was always low, and the problem was exacerbated when Fred VanVleet walked in free agency.

It was painfully obvious to everyone but Masai Ujiri and the most ardent Raptors fans that trading for Poeltl was a mistake; it would have been a mistake if they had simply added him for free and then signed him to the contract that they did. Poeltl is a very good, but not elite rim protector, and his ability to defend in space lags behind most of his elite defensive peers. On offense he is a good screen-setter and roll man, but he flubs a lot of finishes around the rim if he can't dunk and doesn't provide any level of spacing.

The type of player is fine in the right role, but he isn't elevating the defense on his own and is probably hurting the offense unless he is operating in a well-spaced environment. Even if everything worked out the way the Raptors hoped they were betting on Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes all finding a way to thrive in the same frontcourt. That lack of shooting is a death sentence in the modern NBA.

The massive disaster for Toronto is that they didn't merely add Poeltl for free and then re-sign him to a long-term contract; they also traded three draft picks, one of which is very likely to be a Top-10 pick as early as this season. While they are foolishly trying to "retool" instead of rebuild they could have used every lottery pick they can get, and giving one up will only further hamper their ability to build back a new young core.

There is essentially nothing positive to say about this deal. Poeltl is quite good, and the Raptors are a disaster without him, but they're largely a disaster with him. They overpaid at the time, ignored the obvious team-building steps they needed to take, and lost VanVleet for nothing while committing to Poeltl long-term. This deal was a complete blunder for Toronto.

Grade: D-

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