TORONTO - Getting some closure on some unfinished business is just one of the reasons Jakob Poeltl is back with the Toronto Raptors.
Poeltl and Jalen McDaniels were formally introduced by the Raptors on Thursday after a week of media speculation that they had signed with the team as free agents. Poeltl, who was drafted by Toronto and returned to the Raptors in a trade on Feb. 9, said he wanted to finish what he started with the team last season.
“We really didn't end the season the way we wanted to,” said Poeltl, referring to Toronto's play-in loss to the Chicago Bulls. “I know I feel comfortable here in this city, in this team, with these fans.
“There's a lot of really good positives here in Toronto and they all kind of mushed together for this decision to happen the way it happened.”
Poeltl was selected ninth overall by the Raptors in 2016, becoming the first Austrian player in league history. He was traded to the San Antonio Spurs before the 2018-19 season in the deal that sent Kawhi Leonard to Toronto, and was reacquired at last season's trade deadline for Khem Birch, a first-round pick in 2024 and second-round picks in 2023 and 2025.
Toronto failed to make the playoffs and finished ninth in the Eastern Conference with a 41-41 record, losing to Chicago 109-105 in the first round of the NBA's play-in tournament.
“It's definitely something we're going to have to build on,” said Poeltl at a news conference inside Scotiabank Arena. “Hopefully we'll have a season where we're not even putting ourselves in a situation like that.
“(We want a situation) where we have our fate decided in a seven-game series and not a one-and-done game.”
After the Raptors flamed out against the Bulls, team president Masai Ujiri made a major shakeup, firing head coach Nick Nurse and letting veteran point guard Fred VanVleet sign with the Houston Rockets.
“I've never really been one of the really vocal leaders like for example, Fred used to be last year for us,” said the 27-year-old Poeltl. “It's definitely something I think the whole team is going to have to step up for us.
“Guys like myself or Pascal Siakam or Scottie Barnes or OG Anunoby are going to have to step up and take over some leadership.”
Poeltl signed a multi-year contract to stay with Toronto but financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, Media reports say the contract is worth US$80 million over four years. The seven-foot-one Austrian averaged 12.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 blocks and 26.5 minutes in 72 games between the Spurs and Raptors last season.
“Jakob brought an immediate presence on the floor when he returned to us last season. He's a smart, hard-nosed rim protector,” said Ujiri in a statement. “We have been strong believers in Jakob as a player and as an individual since Day 1, and we are thrilled that he will be a Raptor for years to come.”
McDaniels also agreed to a multi-year deal but, like Poeltl, the financial details of the agreement were not disclosed. The six-foot-nine forward averaged 9.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 23.9 minutes in 80 games with the Charlotte Hornets and Philadelphia 76ers last season.
He is expected to add some depth to a Raptors roster that leaned heavily on Siakam, Anunoby, and Barnes on the wings last season. McDaniels said he's eager to work with new head coach Darko Rajakovic, who was an assistant with the Memphis Grizzlies from 2020 to 2023.
“His style of play in Memphis was everybody touches the ball, shares the ball, so it should be fun out there,” said McDaniels. “Sharing the ball makes everybody play better,
“I haven't talked to him yet, but I'm pretty sure that today or sometime I'll give him a call.”
The Raptors have yet to confirm that point guard Dennis Schroder has signed with the team. Several media reports say he agreed to a two-year deal worth $26 million last week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2023.