As teams around the NBA got their first opportunity to see their draft picks in action at NBA Summer League, those organizations got a better idea of how these prospects would fit in once the 2016-17 started. The Toronto Raptors are one of those squads, as recent draft picks Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam both played at Vegas Summer League.While Siakam's Summer League ended after one game because of knee problems, Poeltl played throughout the tournament as he averaged 6.8 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks per game on 67% from the field.
That efficiency shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody that's been monitoring his career. Poeltl was very efficient during his time with the Utah Utes, as he averaged 13.3 points and 8 rebounds on 66% from the field. Poeltl's solid play impressed Raptors head coach Dwane Casey who said the following about his new center in a recent interview with Toronto Sun:
"You tell him something once, he picks it up, has excellent passing skills, he's tough and it's not going to take him long to learn the NBA game, to fit into the NBA. That's the good thing about it, he's been well-coached."
Despite Casey stating that Poeltl was a solid all-around center that was well-coached by Larry Krystkowiak and the Utah Utes, the Raptors coach still says the young center may spend some of his rookie season with their D-League affiliate, the Raptors 905.
"I'm projecting those guys to grow in the year with us, maybe down with the 905, back like our guys did this year. It's going to be huge for them to be able to play games, but I project that they at some point (help the Raptors). I don't know when that's going to be, but stuff happens in our league, you can go ask (Bismack Biyombo). He took advantage of an opportunity."
Casey admitting that Poeltl may spend some time in the D-League as a testament to the trust that has already been established between the Raptors and Raptors 905. Even in the era where most teams have their own direct D-League affiliate, you still rarely see NBA squads assign their lottery prospects to the NBADL. While the Raptors are different from most teams picking in the lottery, as they're already a solid playoff contender, it's still a pretty significant sign of the progression that has been made between NBA and D-League squads.
In regards to how much time Poeltl will spend in the D-League, it's definitely complicated. Despite the Raptors having a solid core in place, their center position isn't that deep after Bismack Biyombo signed a deal with the Orlando Magic. At this time, Jonas Valancuinas, Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira are the only players in the team's front-court that have experience at center. While Poeltl definitely has a solid claim to get that role, it appears that Nogueira will get first crack at working as the Raptors' backup center.
2) Nogueira is expected to get first crack at earning backup C mins, given experience, but leash wont be long. Poeltl could push him in camp— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) July 18, 2016
Going off that report, it would definitely make sense for Poeltl to spend some time with the Raptors 905. A D-League stint would allow Poeltl to get himself fully ingrained with the Raptors on-court approach. Once that happens, Poeltl should flourish as he stands as an intelligent center that can work as a solid two-way center. That D-League success should allow Poeltl to overtake Noguiera as the Raptors backup, as he'd provide the team with a better defensive big that could help recapture some of the production that they lost with Biyombo's departure.
No matter the end result, the Raptors continued usage of the D-League and that backup center battle are both stories to keep a close eye on as we get closer to the start of the 2016-17 season.