Raptors Pistons observations: Jakob Poeltl is already making a difference

TORONTO — It’s time to put the 2023 trade deadline in the past — at least temporarily.

No matter what happens, good or bad, the rest of the way for the Raptors this season it will be difficult to erase the action and inaction that led to Thursday. The Raptors’ play from now through the end of the season and what follows in the offseason will put more focus on their trade for Jakob Poeltl and all the other potential moves they didn’t make.

But now? Everything that can be said has been said. We will review it again in due course, but let us impose a three week moratorium on the deadline reassessment. It will be good for the sanity of all of us.

On Sunday, the Raptors beat the Pistons 119-118. Let’s focus on that.

Pöltl makes

After just two games and one training session, Poeltl is having a positive impact on the team.

The impact of Poeltl’s sighting was evident in his first two return games. Friday against Jazz, you saw that especially when he was looking for players with the ball. Against the Pistons, he shielded the ball well and cleared Fred VanVleet for two catch-and-shoot opportunities.

“It’s like he never left — just kind of chemistry there,” VanVleet said. “I forgot how much we talk (about defence), just talk throughout the game and try to find ways to be successful.”

He also had beautiful moments in more obvious ways. He found a cutting Scottie Barnes with a nice look for the first basket of the game, looked around the rim on some of his tries and saved three shots. He was a team high plus 11. The Pistons averaged 121.6 points per 100 possessions for the game but only 94.1 in Poeltl’s 25 minutes.

“Sure,” said Adrian Griffin, the Raptors’ assistant coach, “we’re better when he’s on the ground.”

Unfortunately, he fouled after scoring five against the Jazz in 17 minutes. He was almost exclusively in dropback coverage in San Antonio and is being asked to play with a lot more ball pressure in Toronto. It will be interesting to see if the Raptors coaching staff come back from the All-Star hiatus with plans to play more dropback coverage.

“We have a very active defensive style,” said Pöltl. “It’s nothing I don’t know at all. I’ve played this style before. It sure is different than it has been in San Antonio for the past few years. It’s definitely something I can do.”

You got a vote from me

Dwane Casey never bothers to heap praise on his former organization. He didn’t like being fired after a Coach of the Year season and that’s understandable. However, he still has a lot of love for some of his former players.

The Pistons coach said he often uses Pascal Siakam as an example for his young players. Casey said his work ethic always made him feel Siakam would make a solid rotation player or starter.

“Incredible. From where Pascal started and where he is today, everything is Pascal,” said Casey. “I don’t know if any other player will surpass the work that he has done.”

To that end, Casey made it sound like he’d picked Siakam as the All-Star reserve. Siakam originally missed the cut when the coaches selected the seven reserves but made the game as an injury substitute.

“He deserves it,” Casey said. “I don’t know what the other crazy coaches, 14 coaches, 13 coaches, whatever, were thinking about. He should have been present at the first ballot.”

Each conference’s head coaches select the seven reserves, and coaches are not allowed to enroll players from their own team. Siakam got off to a slow start but had a great second half. He carried an otherwise all-reserve lineup to start the fourth quarter as the Raptors extended their lead at a crucial time. He also had one of the nicest unintentional assists I’ve ever seen. Siakam scored 22 of his 28 points in the second half.

Get them on break

OG Anunoby missed his eighth straight game with a sprained wrist. Anunoby is still officially rated as Day-to-Day, but it would be odd if he played Orlando on Tuesday, as the Raptors won’t play New Orleans after that until Feb. 23.

The Raptors were missing another starter with the absence of Gary Trent Jr., who was out with a strained calf. The organization hasn’t said the severity of the injury or when they expect him back, but calf strains won’t heal in three or four days. It makes sense to let him recover and see where he is after the All-Star break.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse has also been absent from the team since Saturday for personal reasons. There is no set timetable for his return. Griffin was the head coach in Nurse’s place on Sunday.

Another necessary adjustment for Barnes

It’s not fair to judge the Raptors’ offense without Anunoby and Trent. They don’t have much shooting at their best and by being replaced by Precious Achiuwa and Poeltl the gap was…affected.

When the Raptors become whole again, it will be interesting to see how they involve Barnes. Barnes broke out of an early-season slump in part by acting as a de facto center offensively, shielding a lot and handling the ball around the free-throw line.

If Poeltl stays in the starting XI – in the long run defense will likely need him as a starter – that role will not be as available for Barnes. Poeltl is a better screener and has better close-range touch than Barnes and doesn’t offer shooting. Barnes’ shot is a work in progress, but it’s a plausible off-color shot threat. He hit three 3s against the Pistons.

Any plan that has Barnes sitting behind the arch waiting for the ball to swing to him is bad for his development. The Raptors need to do more than give Barnes the fleeting post look and work on getting him the ball out of the cuts. They also need to give him some opportunities on the touchline when Poeltl is on the ground and in the paint when he’s on the bench.

He was on the sidelines against the Pistons, and that’s not going to help the Raptors in the short-term or Barnes in the long-term. Barnes still finished with 20 points thanks to 10 trips to the line, but he only needed six field goal attempts.

It’s about the shots you take as much as the shots you take

Dalano Banton has not played in any of the last three games by coach’s decision. He returned to the lineup against the Pistons, against whom he posted a career-high 27 points in the first matchup of the season. He played nine minutes and scored three points.

He’s played well enough defensively, but one of the most important things roleplayers can do to get buried is shots outside of their area of ​​effect. Banton fired a midrange jumper in the middle of the shot clock in the first half, then a contested 3-pointer with nine seconds remaining in the second half.

Banton needs to focus on attacking offensively. If a rhythmic jumper presents himself, he can grab it. However, Griffin spoke before the game about the Raptors’ need to move the ball. Banton can’t make those shots in those situations if he wants to play more regularly.

(Photo by Precious Achiuwa, Jakob Poeltl and Isaiah Stewart: Cole Burston/Getty Images)

https://theathletic.com/4188828/2023/02/12/raptors-win-pistons-jakob-poeltl/ Raptors Pistons observations: Jakob Poeltl is already making a difference

Russell Falcon

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