The San Antonio Spurs essentially dropped off their starting center north of the border after their last game and will play their first game since trading Jakob Poeltl to Toronto when they visit the Detroit Pistons on Friday.

Poeltl was headed to free agency and numerous teams coveted the reliable big man. San Antonio agreed to deal Poeltl (12.1 points, 9.1 rebounds per game) to his former team for center Khem Birch, a protected 2024 first-round draft pick and two future second-round picks.

The Spurs also sent Devonte’ Graham and draft picks to the New Orleans Pelicans for Josh Richardson. The Pistons sent out Saddiq Bey and Kevin Knox, while getting James Wiseman back in return from the Golden State Warriors at a busy deadline.

Even before the Spurs’ deal became public, Toronto coach Nick Nurse heaped praise on Poeltl.

“We loved him when he was here,” Nurse said. “Just really tough, smart, hard-working. He does a lot of the game. He’s a screener, a rebounder, a rim protector, pretty smart on D, not necessarily a shot-blocker but a rim-protector guy. And his passing has really improved. That’s pretty good on the list of big guy things to do.”

Birch, Zach Collins and Charles Bassey are some of the potential candidates to replace Poeltl in the lineup.

Following Nurse’s comments, the Raptors handed San Antonio its 10th consecutive loss, 112-98. San Antonio committed 16 turnovers, leading to 22 points for Toronto.

“When you turn it over against Toronto, it’s like a bucket at the other end with their speed and their athleticism,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “They got too many points off our turnovers, but that’s how they play. That’s one of their strengths.”

Opponents have been exploiting the Spurs’ many weaknesses while Popovich and his staff evaluate younger players. They’ve lost 18 of their last 20 games.

“Obviously this year has been a development year, and we are learning as we go, but the future is bright,” Spurs veteran forward Doug McDermott said. “And I think we can be a team that competes and wins a lot of games next year with hopefully what we have coming in.”

One of the only two victories they’ve collected since New Year’s Eve has come at the Pistons’ expense. San Antonio recorded a 121-109 home win on Jan. 6 as Tre Jones, who missed Wednesday’s game with a foot injury, scored 25 points. Poeltl racked up 11 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks.

Detroit has won only three games since that night and has the same number of wins this season — 14 — as San Antonio.

The Pistons have dropped three straight, including a 113-85 road loss to Cleveland on Wednesday. The Cavaliers outscored the Pistons 37-17 in the fourth quarter, even though their dynamic backcourt of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell didn’t play.

The Pistons were held to a season-low in points while giving up 70 points in the paint. The addition of the 7-foot Wiseman, who has struggled with injuries, is expected to address that issue moving forward. The Pistons shot 37 percent from the field and got out-rebounded 50-32.

“These type of games are butt-kicking contests because they play physical offense,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “It was a great game for us to feel, to taste, to go up against a hard-nosed, physical playoff team.”

San Antonio will be playing the third game of a nine-game road trip. Detroit plays its next three games on the road.

–Field Level Media