When you think of Toronto Raptors center Jakob Poeltl, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Most NBA fans would point to a fundamentally-sound 22-year-old reserve center with impressive low-post moves on offense and a well-rounded defensive ability. Averaging 6.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in 18.3 minutes per game this season, the 2016 first-round draft pick has been a key member of Toronto’s impressive second unit.
As indicated by his per-36-minute averages of 13.1 points and 9.2 rebounds, the young center has improved off of his rookie season and is shooting 63.7 percent from the floor, up from his 58.3 mark in limited minutes last year.
Although he’s stuck behind starting center Jonas Valanciunas and also loses playing time to fellow reserve Pascal Siakam and starting power forward Serge Ibaka in certain small-ball situations, Poeltl has shown glimpses of stardom.
In a 114-110 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, the Austrian scored all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter and also added eight boards in 18 total minutes. Since Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic posed size issues for Toronto, Raptors coach Dwane Casey deployed Poeltl and Valanciunas alongside each other, which has been a rare sighting this season. But, considering how well Poeltl was playing and how he's performed defensively all year, it was clearly the right call.
Known as a talented All-Star level defender over the course of his career, Millsap was tasked with defending Poeltl. That didn’t go so well on one play in particular. Check out what happened to him:
If you didn't notice, he got up so high that he literally threw the ball down through the hoop. If that looked familiar to you, it’s probably because you remember this dunk on poor Timofey Mozgov by Blake Griffin:
While Poeltl certainly has displayed his athleticism at times over the course of his young career, it’s safe to say that no one could have seen that coming. Millsap certainly had no idea. Even though the 7-footer held a size advantage over his defender, throwing the ball down through the hoop is simply remarkable, no matter what the circumstances are.
Poeltl still has to work out a few kinks in his game, but judging by the play above, his athleticism alone gives him a good shot to develop into an NBA starter. Since he typically doesn't see more than 20 minutes per game, he will most likely not put up any eye-popping numbers for the rest of this season. However, his future is bright and he tends to make the most of his time on the court.
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