The San Antonio Spurs moved fan-favorite veteran Jakob Poeltl this past trade deadline. In return, they received backup center Khem Birch, whose contract functioned as salary filler, and a top-six protected 2024 first-rounder from Toronto. They also received a 2023 and 2025 second-round pick.
Most people perceived this deal as a win-win for both sides. The Raptors got a defensive beast in Jakob Poeltl, who was a Raptor to begin his career, and San Antonio received lucrative draft compensation. Now that the season is over for the Spurs, we will investigate whether San Antonio is winning this trade.
Let's begin with some essential context regarding why San Antonio made this trade beyond draft picks. Jakob Poeltl is on an expiring contract and will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, meaning he can sign with any team. Even if San Antonio wanted to bring him back before dealing him to Toronto, they ran the risk of him leaving for nothing. In most situations, when teams trade an expiring contract, they can only get so much in return.
San Antonio decided not to run that risk and cash in now. As for the Raptors, they were more concerned with trying to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt. Jakob averaged 13.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game following the trade. What's surprising is that Toronto's defense was close to the same regardless if he was on or off the court.
They have a 115 Defensive Rating with Poeltl on the bench that only improves to 113.6 when he is on the floor. That isn't to say Jakob isn't good at defense anymore, but his most valuable asset hasn't made a meaningful difference thus far.
The Raptors have countless question marks regardless if they lose in the play-in tournament or fall in a first-round series. There have been rumors of tenured vet Fred Vanfleet looking at greener pastures. We have heard trade rumblings about OG Anunoby throughout the season, and their prized young gun Scottie Barnes has been an awkward fit offensively. The point is that a lot can go wrong, and the one thing that went well was their All-Star Pascal Siakim played 71 games. If this is how well Toronto did with Poeltl playing that much, what might happen if he ever misses extended time?
The first-round pick the Raptors sent to San Antonio is top-six protected and will have until 2026 to convey before it becomes a pair of future second-rounders. There are simply more avenues and higher odds of Toronto missing the playoffs next year with all these unanswered questions across their roster.
San Antonio got the best deal possible for a player on an expiring contract, especially from a team that might not make the postseason next year. There's a good chance they enter the next draft with two lottery picks and utilize them to progress their rebuild, and their future looks bright.