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If his name is hard to understand, at least his game isn’t. A smooth-moving traditional center, Poeltl earned himself a chance at theย back-up starting gig to a player his game often mimics. Taking Jakob Poeltl with the number nine pick caused the usual grumblings of Raptors fans who (thanks to Andrea Bargnani) think every European player is destined to launch long twos while doing his best impression of a shopping cart with a broken wheel in the pasta aisle on defense, but thankfully for those same fans, Poeltl is no Bargnani.


The Pac-12 player of the year earned that honour with averages of 17.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks while shooting 65% from the field. He led the Pac-12 in two-point field goals, total win shares, and true shooting percentage. His size ( 7’1, 230 lbs) hasn’t limited any of his mobility. He remains one of the most fluid moving big men entering the league, as evident when watching him gallop beside the lumbering tree that is Jonas Valanciunas.

That mobility allows him to be an above-average offensive player. He can still add some weight to his frame, allowing him to bang in the paint more in the future. For now, he relies on his mobility to get open enough to show off his explosiveness. He has above-average hands that allow him to catch the ball off the pick and roll, and while he won’t be nearly the same rim protector Bismack Biyombo was, his touch around the rim on the offensive end will be much appreciated.

When his mobility is taken away from him – his back-to-the-basket game is there to bail him out. He has somewhere between three to five moves, relying heavily on the up and under. Still, when you’re 7’1 and can move faster than almost anyone your size, one simple move is often all it takes to flush it down.

Poeltl’s size will ultimately mean some trips to the free throw line, and that should be good news for the Raptors…eventually. Poeltl shot just 44 percent from the line in his first year in college, but saw that number spike to 69 percent after just one year, and 75 percent in a limited sample size in the preseason. If he continues to practice his touch from outside the paint, Poeltl will serve as an admirable JV-mini-me in his battle for the back-up center position.

His defense is exactly what you would expect from a lanky seven footer in his first year in the NBA. He’s an excellent rebounder, but based almost solely on his height. He’ll need to add weight to his frame in order to hang with some of the big men around the league, but his good hands allow him to pull anything down. As mentioned above, the rim protection leaves a lot to be desired from someone his size (he failed to record a block in the preseason), but if he can recreate this in the NBA, he’ll carve out a nice relief spot for coach Casey.



Wouldn’t that be nice? Sadly, every player in the NBA has weaknesses, and Poeltl is no exception. As mentioned above, Poeltl’s size will continue to be a problem until he adds on weight. Consider the fact he’s only 15 pounds heavier than Norman Powell despite being nine inches taller and it really puts things into perspective. Despite his height, he gets easily moved around by players with stronger bases, which could be tough when he’s expected to be the rim protector on the floor.

As for his offense, fans expecting anything other than the most traditional center imaginable will be sorely disappointed. Poeltl takes his shots in the paint, and thats it. He loves the paint more than Benjamin Moore. He has a closer relationship to paint than a “fixer upper” home you overpaid for. Don’t believe me? He took FOUR jumpers all year last season. He catches the ball off the pick and roll, or uses one of his handful of post up moves to let his size do the work for him. That’s a limitation in today’s NBA, and it doesn’t look like its ever changing for Poeltl.


The Raptor’s “A game” occurs when Jonas Valanciunas is on the court. The addition of Poeltl allows the Raptors to run an extremely watered down version of that “A game”, but a version nonetheless. Poeltl will still have to fight for minutes with Siakam, Sullinger, Patterson, and Nogueira all capable of playing the 5 in certain situations, but expect to see him carve out a significant role for himself during the season. His floor is high, but so is his ceiling, which means that the Raptors will have little patience if Poeltl can’t match up with the size and strength of the NBA. Still, the future is bright for a player who vaulted into a top ten pick out of literally nowhere, and the Raptors will need his scoring this year.

*Edited to note Poeltl is vying for the back-up center spot – not guaranteed

  • justsayin

    So tired of hearing the JV comparison with this guy. They’re not the same player. JV is a slow moving physical beast who excels at tip ins and finishing near the hoop on switches. Poeltl is not at all slow on his feet. Watch him switch out on the perimeter. His feel for post play is much more natural than JV and he’s a better passer. Etc etc. But yeah they’re both tall and white.

    • Cam D

      So your only major difference between the two is JV is slower (which is mentioned), and as far as “passing” or “his touch” which is also mentioned – remember he hasn’t played an NBA regular season game yet…please enlighten me on who a better comparison is

      • Wild-ling #1

        “Quicker” may mean a better perimeter and help defender. Jakob’s Bball IQ might pay dividends in other subtle ways, too. It’s not just a bout getting up and down the floor a bit faster. ๐Ÿ™‚ JV is a beast. Jakob may add quite a different sort of option. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Cam D

          Agreed! Either way it’s going to be fun to watch

          • Wild-ling #1

            *Fingers Crossed* (Health!) ๐Ÿ™‚

      • justsayin

        why does there have to be a comparison at all?

        there’s enough of a sample size with the starter minutes that Poeltl played in 2 years of college ball to see that there are major differences in how these guys play on both sides of the ball.

      • justsayin

        Hey I’m not trying to pick on you about this. Every writer here makes the JV comparison. So it’s not personal. But if you saw the game last night or just watched the highlights (as I did)…

        Poeltl’s man was crowding him about 5 feet beyond the three point line so he took him off the dribble and finished with an and one at the rim. Not in a million years would you see JV do something like that. He doesn’t have the ball handling or the quicks.

        • BlakeMurphy

          “Every” writer here does not make the JV comparison.

  • Mexiballer

    Right on the money evaluation. I am really looking forward to seeing him develop and fully believe he will contribute this year and eventually win the back up center spot.

    A jump shot may not be part of his game now but over time I can see him becoming a very good jump shooter and possibly even have 3 point range.

    He has all the tools to become an excellent player. A high ceiling for this guy.

  • Wild-ling #1

    So nice to hear a positive evaluation. ๐Ÿ™‚

    And while I loved the “JV mini-me” line (funny!) I have to agree with justsayin that it is to be hoped Poeltl can provide something of an alternative to JV (as well as a back-up). Consider:

    Jakob Poeltl: ………….7’1″ – 230 lbs* (5 months ago at the Draft combine. And now …?)

    Miles Turner ………….6’11 – 243 lbs
    Pau Gasol ……………. 7’0 – 250 lbs
    Kevin Love …………..6’10 – 251 lbs
    Andre Drummond ….6’11 – 279 lbs
    DeMarcus Cousins ..6’11 – 270 lbs

    Obviously Jonas stacks up better versus the true “beast” centers in the NBA. I’d expect that Jakob may have added a little weight/ muscle to his 7’1″ frame since the spring. And while I agree his “ceiling” may be tied to his ability to continue to improve his jump shooting, I think . his quickness and Bball IQ may also help the Raps handle a Kevin Love, later this season. Sure, JV should be able to PUNISH Love inside (JV has a 7’6″ wingspan to go along with his strength) and good shooting. But Jakob may prove to be difficult match-up in other ways. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Mike$

      Frye killed us last year, Poeltl should be great against a player like that. His size will effect a deep shot more than a shorter athletic player like biz can

  • Mike$

    When was it released that he’d be the back up? I thought that wouldn’t be let on till the end of training camp. Good player evaluation, really hammered home what i believe is his biggest strength, his quickness/ mobility to go along with his length

    • Wild-ling #1

      Given Casey’s remarks, I think most now think Poeltl’s ascension (some time this season) is nearly inevitable. The Raptors have been working with him since June. Meanwhile, Bebe is a known quantity.

      • Mike$

        Yeah it does seem like he will replace him at some point. Article makes it seem like he’s the back up right now though

        • Wild-ling #1

          Right. Maybe Cmeron jumped the starter’s gun or just went out on a limb) …. But I don’t know what he knows. ๐Ÿ™‚