Jakob Poeltl had as solid a rookie season as could be expected for a low ceiling/high floor first round pick. Despite starting the season behind Pascal Siakam in the pecking order, he arguably finished with the better overall rookie season (D-League Finals MVP notwithstanding).
What we can hold onto besides the baseline of solid production, willingness to do the dirty work, and a high IQ, is that Poeltl caught a body as a rookie centre unlike most:
As Poeltl moves into his sophomore season and looks to take hold of the backup centre minutes himself, here are some things to watch for out of him this season:
No Three, Just D
Seemingly every player on the Raptors roster has been working on the long ball during the offseason — except for our boy Jak. From the looks of it so far, Poeltl will be firmly entrenched inside the arc on both offense and defense this season.
Look for his reads and instincts to improve as he gets more comfortable in the system as a sophomore, and a big man with his quickness could become a real useful asset as a defensive anchor off the bench for 10-15 minutes a night.
Balancing The Body
Poeltl’s body resembles that of a young Jonas Valanciunas during his first few years in the NBA; lanky, fairly quick, and able to rim run consistently. As we know, Valanciunas bulked up over the next few years and struggled with conditioning and staying on the court — something that’s been a major focus of his offseason, as he looks to be in much better shape.
As Poeltl continues to grow and add size to his NBA body, it will be interesting to monitor the optimal size and weight the organization has in mind for him. Poeltl should look to maintain his quickness and ability to switch, while also not getting bullied on the boards by some of the bigger 4s and 5s throughout the league.
As we’ve seen Dwane Casey rotate between him and Bebe Nogueira as the backup centre during this abbreviated preseason, Poeltl holds the edge in minutes played, field goal percentage (Poeltl is 11-for-11 so far; is that good?) as well as defensive rating and rebound percentage.
There’s also a strong chance he could be the starting centre of the future, should Valanciunas be moved at all this season.
Not the sexiest player on the roster, but certainly one with a lot of substance, in the words of The Starters Leigh Ellis. Look for Poeltl to have a very solid sophomore season in white and red.