Spurs pull off blockbuster trade to send Jakob Poeltl back to Toronto
The San Antonio Spurs have traded Jakob Poeltl to the Toronto Raptors for Khem Birch, a protected 2024 first-rounder, and two future second-round picks, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
This move sends Poeltl back to the team that selected him ninth overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, allowing him to assume a more fitting role as a starter for a potential playoff contender.
General Manager Brian Wright miraculously created an additional $2.7M in cap space by acquiring Birch. The Spurs also maintain frontcourt depth as the sixth-year center has 282 games and 75 starts to his name.
Although the 30-year-old completely fell out of Toronto's regular rotation, he offers Gregg Popovich a steady veteran presence in the middle should they waive Dewayne Dedmon or leave Charles Bassey in the G League.
Birch averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds on 59.4% shooting across 162 minutes for the Raptors this season. Even if San Antonio has no long-term plans for him, Birch is only under contract until 2024, meaning he won't be on their payroll much longer.
The Silver and Black have collected a whopping 13 first-rounders through the 2029 NBA Draft. With multiple reports that Josh Richardson and Doug McDermott are available, PATFO could add to their wealth of draft capital by the end of the trade deadline.
For the fans that are sad to see Poeltl leave after four-and-a-half years of immense development in the 2-1-0, here's a cheery angle to a teary-eyed adios. It may be a long shot, but the Spurs have enough money to re-sign Jakob this summer since he will be an unrestricted free agent.
Regardless of whether this is a final goodbye for the Austrian center, the most meaningful thing to come from this trade is the flexibility it provides the Spurs. They have the assets to move up in the draft and the financial freedom to chase players on the open market to expedite their rebuild.
Of course, losing Poeltl will also exacerbate their struggles on both ends of the hardwood. And for a franchise that has stockpiled 41 losses before the All-Star Break, the inescapable decline of their on-court performance will steer their tank toward increased lottery odds and a legitimate shot at landing Victor Wembanyama.