The Toronto Raptors are now one year removed from one of the more controversial trades in recent franchise history. Toronto traded a first-round pick that is only protected within the top six selections in the 2024 NBA Draft for a new starting center in Jakob Poeltl.
The Raptors traded for the upcoming free agent with the intention of eventually giving him a big contract, and they did just that when they inked him to a four-year deal. From the day it was conceived until the present, Raptors fans need to weigh Poeltl's utility on the floor against the price paid to get him.
The Poeltl trade is a true litmus test of how you view Masai Ujiri. Those who believe in what he is trying to build in the next few years will comment on him for finding an above-average starting center at a position that is getting less deep every year, while pessimists will rip him for the very high price paid.
Regrading the Toronto Raptors' Jakob Poeltl trade one year later
The negatives are plentiful. Not only did they give up a first-round draft pick that will all but assuredly end up in the Top 10 for a player who is a complete non-shooter, but they did so right before they were going to pay him nearly $80 million over four years. Like him or not, Poeltl is here for the long haul.
This trade was not a lost cause, however. In a league with so few good centers, Toronto has one locked up that does not demand the ball. Poeltl has become such a valuable member of this team that Toronto looks borderline helpless on defense without him. Losing his passing and screening has also hurt the team's offense.
Poeltl is in a very weird place. No one doubts his ability, and his contract might not be too expensive when the salary cap expands and other top centers get paid. However, giving away a possible lottery pick right before what could be a very long and extensive rebuilding process might be difficult for some fans to swallow.
While Poeltl is a fine addition to the team, and Ujiri's initial desire to give a very flawed roster a long look with a proper NBA center is certainly with merit, but the Raptors paid quite a price for a player that will likely never be more than a fourth or fifth option on offense. Toronto will need to work around this deal for the next few years.