Ah yes, the promise of youth. The NBA is nothing if not an endless bounty of optimism. It’s true. Every year young men enter the league, fresh-faced and eager to prove their value to the teams that have selected them. Most are ultimately crushed — by time, by injury, by circumstance, by a myriad of depressing things. Such is life (for them, and for us).
But let’s set that all aside. Over at NBA.com, Dr. John Schuhmann undertook a survey of 38 members of the 2016-17 NBA rookie class. He asked some obvious questions (who will win Rookie of the Year? who will have the best career?) and some intriguing ones (who is the funniest rookie?) and drew some conclusions.
For our purposes (e.g. Raptor purposes), the two new guys, Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam, got a couple of mentions. While it was not surprising that both players -- an unsexy low-ceiling big man and an obscure if high-upside forward — did not break into the top three of any of the polled questions, it was curious to see where their names did land in the process.
For the Raptors’ higher profile pick Poeltl, who if you’ll recall went ninth in the most recent NBA Draft, there was one single solitary mention. (And it wasn’t for funniest player, which is madness to me.) The first Austrian-born player in NBA history received some votes for potentially being the best rookie defender. (Kris Dunn of the Timberwolves was first with 23.5 percent of the vote.) This is encouraging news as Toronto fans prepare for a post-Bismack Biyombo life. It is also a hopeful idea in the face of years of big white dudes getting mercilessly dunked on throughout NBA history. (Do not @ me about this.) I’ve watched Poeltl up close in Las Vegas and, while he can get pushed around on the court at times, he’s shown flashes of the quick hands and feet — not to mention a sharp awareness — that suggest a solid defender.
But intrigue abounds! Despite being a lightly-scouted, semi-reach for the Raptors with the 27th pick, Pascal Siakam got two different mentions in the survey; first up, for best career (which Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram won with 26.7 percent of the vote) and then, shockingly, in the poll for Rookie of the Year (which Dunn crushed with 29 percent of the vote).
Now, I don’t know how official any of these rankings are, and who knows what conditions were like on the ground for sociologist Dr. Schuhmann, but I think we can agree: This is some wild-ass stuff.
Here’s hoping Pascal can live up to some of this exciting expectation. (And here’s also hoping that it wasn’t just good guy Jakob voting for his new teammate and vice versa.)