Jakob Poeltl Is a Sure Thing for the Toronto Raptors
In the NBA Draft nothing -- not even a first-round pick -- is a sure thing. Take this year for example, as the number-one overall pick, Ben Simmons, comes into the NBA with question marks.
Simmons is like most high potential draftees -- there can't be reward without risk. But, there are always a few players who carry substantially less risk as a first-round selection.
Those players are usually those who played more than just a season or two in college. They're proven, mature, and experienced.
This year, one of those players happens to break the mold. Jakob Poeltl, a 7'1" center, is a 20-year-old coming off of his sophomore season at Utah, but he's one of the most consistent players to make the jump this season, and Toronto sure could use more of that down low.
Poeltl's production at Utah paints an interesting picture.
From year one to year two in Salt Lake, three things happened: Poeltl received more minutes, got the ball more and improved immensely.
In his sophomore season, Poeltl played 7.1 more minutes than he had in his freshman season. With his extra time on the floor, the big man saw his Usage Rate jump from 21.2% to 25.7% and scored 8 more points per game.
As a result of taking on a heavier workload, Poeltl's shooting efficiency dropped ever so slightly, but he made up for it with his overall production, tallying an additional 2.6 Win Shares and earning a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 31.1 -- finishing ninth in the entire nation in that category.
He was, hands down, one of the best players in the nation a year ago.
Low Risk, High Reward
Now that he's officially a Raptor, will the production translate to the NBA hardwood? Why not?
He's a young, gifted big man with the ability to put the ball in the hoop. And on defense, he has the footwork to stick with quicker players on the perimeter and the length to block shots around the basket.
ESPN's new draft projection model, which projects a player's statistical plus/minus (SPM), supports the eye test, projecting Poeltl as the rookie least likely to bust within his first five seasons. Actually, Poeltl's bust chances of 16% is half the chances of his becoming a starter (32%) and only 4% higher than the seven-footer's chances of becoming an all-star -- mind you, within his first five years in the league.
The Raptors and Raptors fans alike should expect Poeltl to be a solid player for years to come. Where does he fit into the rotation, though?
At first glance, this is an odd addition because of the presence of Jonas Valanciunas. But, as we break down Toronto's roster, there isn't a ton of depth down low.
Bismack Biyombo is highly probable to hit free agency, where he's likely to get somewhere around $15 million in today's market. So, with Valanciunas' primary backup headed for greener pastures, who does that leave?
For now, Lucas Nogueira is the frontcourt depth for the team up north. If you're asking me, that's not a very comforting sentence.
Nogueira has managed a total of just 248 minutes and 71 points in his first two NBA seasons, so it's safe to say that he's not taking on a big role anytime soon.
As for Poeltl, he looks poised to step in and replace Biyombo and his team-leading 1.6 blocks. For a team that ranked 20th in blocks per game and 18th in Field Goals Defended at the Rim Percentage (51.9%) this past season, that has to be a breath of fresh air.
So, rest assured, Toronto. Poeltl's as close as you can get to a sure bet on draft night.