NBA Draft: Toronto Raptors draft Jakob Poeltl 9th
7-foot-1 Austrian centre will likely fill a hole left by Bismack Biyombo
Excellent foot speed and agility for a big man, and an NBA-ready body.
The Raptors selected Utah forward Jakob Poeltl, a 20-year-old from Austria, with the No. 9 pick in Thursday night's NBA draft, shoring up a front court that will likely be without Bismack Biyombo and Luis Scola next season.
And moments after the selection was made, Raptors coach Dwane Casey talked about an impressive workout Poeltl had in Buffalo, N.Y., last week.
"Fundamentally sound, physically ready, NBA-ready body," Casey said. "He had an excellent workout down there, his speed and agility around the cones were really impressive. An excellent insurance policy for as us far as the centre position, the power forward position is concerned.
"His foot speed is a little bit quicker than (Jonas Valanciunas) at the same stage. That's what struck me doing the cone drills, he was huge as far as his speed and quickness."
Later Thursday, the Raptors added Pascal Siakam, a six-foot-10 forward from Cameroon, with their No. 27 pick.
Siakam led the NCAA in double-doubles with 27 as a sophomore for New Mexico State, and was a top-10 rebounder with 11.6 a game.
Poeltl, whose parents were Austrian national volleyball players, became the first player from Austria drafted. He played two seasons with the Utes, earning the Pac-12 conference player of the year and the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award given to the NCAA's top centre. He averaged 17.2 points and 9.1 rebounds a game this season.
"I think I can be a guy who's out there always fighting, always trying to get better," Poeltl said. "I think I'm far from being done. . . I feel I can improve a lot."
'He's a gym rat'
Casey said in a previous year's draft, before the league's emphasis on small ball, Poeltl would likely have gone higher than ninth.
He said his new rookie has a strong work ethic, who plays "extremely hard."
"He's a gym rat, so that's what's exciting about him, is the fact that you know the young man is going to work, come put his body on people, excellent screener, been well-coached at Utah, runs an NBA style of offence at Utah which is very impressive."
Poeltl watched as the Raptors came within two wins of the NBA finals, and said he's excited to join a squad that's riding a huge wave of success.
"I think it's an amazing opportunity to be on a winning team. . .," Poeltl said. "I can learn a lot from a lot of these guys that have had a lot of success in the NBA and are really good NBA players. That's really what I'm looking forward to."
Poeltl joins former Utah teammate Delon Wright in Toronto. The Raptors took Wright with their No. 20 pick last year.
"His pick and roll," Wright said, on what Poeltl brings to the team. "He rolls really hard. A lot of bigs they don't really roll hard, you have to teach them pretty much, but he came in rolling really hard and finishes with great hands."
Toronto acquired the ninth pick back in 2013 in the deal that sent Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks.
Nine is the highest Toronto had picked since 2012, when they selected Terrence Ross at No. 8.
The Raptors selected two-time all-star DeMar DeRozan with the ninth overall pick in 2009.