Raptors officially land Poeltl from Spurs for Birch, a 2024 first and two future seconds

San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl. (Randall Benton/AP)

The Toronto Raptors have acquired Jakob Poeltl from the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Khem Birch, a protected 2024 first-round pick and two future second-round picks, the team announced Thursday.

Toronto drafted Poeltl with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft. He played two seasons for the Raptors, before being shipped to the Spurs as part of the deal that brought Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors.

The 27-year-old was enjoying a solid season under Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, averaging 12.1 points and 9.1 rebounds a contest through 45 games.

He joins the Raptors who were in desperate search of a centre. In strange circumstances, Poeltl and the Raptors faced off against each other just hours before the trade, in a 112-98 win for Toronto.

Poeltl’s best season for the Raptors came in 2017-18 when he appeared in all 82 games and averaged 6.9 rebounds and 4.8 rebounds.

Toronto will hope the addition of the seven-foot-one forward will help their struggling defence, as after Wednesday’s game, they rank 29th in opponent effective field goal percentage.

Earlier in the day, NBA correspondent Marc Stein reported that the Spurs were willing to move Poeltl but were hoping for at least one first-round pick in exchange, which they did get from the Raptors.

Birch, who was born in Montreal, leaves the Raptors after joining the team part-way through the 2020-21 season. He played in just 20 games for the Raptors this season, and averaged a pedestrian 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds a game.

Many expect that the veteran forward will be a buyout candidate for the Spurs.

The Raptors, who are currently 26-30 and sitting in 10th in the Eastern Conference, were expected to be one of the key players at this year’s deadline.

It would not be shocking if this was the first of a few different moves that Raptors president Masai Ujiri and company decide to make over the next 24 hours, especially as interest around O.G. Anunoby reportedly continues to pick up.

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