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Report: Spurs trade Jakob Poeltl to the Raptors for Khem Birch, first round pick

The Spurs have moved their starting center for a haul of picks and created more cap space in doing so.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs have agreed to trade center Jakob Poeltl to the Raptors for Khem Birch, a protected 2024 first round pick and two future second rounders, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Raptors have been linked to Poeltl for a while, which makes sense. They drafted and developed the Austrian big man before trading him to the Spurs in the deal that netted them Kawhi Leonard. With a clear lack of a long-term answer at center, they have been inquiring about Poeltl for a while before pulling the trigger hours before the 2023 NBA trade deadline.

The transaction might come off as a bit of a surprise to Spurs fans because it was reported that the asking price for Poeltl was two first round picks and the franchise was reportedly considering re-signing the productive center who will become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Whether San Antonio’s front office was just trying to increase his value by talking to the media or simply realized that Poeltl might walk in the offseason is unclear, but the decision to part ways has been made.

The return is a great one for a quality player who is about to become expensive and doesn’t completely fit the Spurs’ timeline. Poeltl, 27, is in his prime and can contribute to a winning team now while the rebuild has just started in San Antonio. How good the deal is will depend on the protection of the 2024 first rounder, but getting extra picks is always a plus and the Silver and Black have actually created around $2.7 million more in cap space with which to work to get even more draft capital by taking on Birch’s smaller contract. Whether the Canadian big man, who is under contract until the end of the 2023/24 season, will remain on the roster or get waived immediately like Noah Vonleh and Dewayne Dedmon remains to be seen.

Poeltl was a fantastic Spur during his time with the franchise but it was the right move to trade him. Now San Antonio will continue to focus on acquiring more draft picks, according to Wojnarowski. More moves could be coming.