It’s now Chris Boucher’s time to shine for the Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors - Chris Boucher (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Chris Boucher (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors have a player, Chris Boucher, on their roster with incredible potential. He should be afforded more time to showcase his skills.

The Toronto Raptors have had an impressive start to their season. However, one of the team’s biggest needs is their lack of depth off the bench. With a player who has shown flashes of brilliance, it would behoove Nick Nurse and the Raptors to look for opportunities to get Chris Boucher into game action.

Ahead of yesterday’s tipoff, Boucher was averaging 4.6 minutes per game. The majority of his minutes were being played in garbage time. While he hasn’t yet earned a bigger role, he has not been given the opportunity to show off his strengths in the regular season.

Thanks to the Raptors giant leads (they were up 22 points at halftime) against the Pelicans, Nurse gave more leeway to allow his bench to step up. The reserves also got more time due to Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka going down with injuries.

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Boucher was one of the Raptors who benefited. He got on the floor and provided his squad with energy and enthusiastic defense. He also crashed the boards hard on both ends of the floor trying to clean up on every miss.

Boucher is a player that has proven that he has the skillset to be a regular NBA player. Unfortunately, those talents were mostly on display last season in the G-League. He won that league’s Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards, becoming the first player to win such an honor.

There are high hopes in Toronto that Boucher can bring that game to an NBA court. If that style of play can be regularly displayed, there is no doubt that Nurse would trust the Saint Lucian-Canadian with more minutes.

As it currently stands, Nurse will need to pick his spots carefully. He will look for opportunities to get Boucher into games. Yes, he’ll likely need to play backup center during Ibaka’s absence, but against weaker teams, he might even push for even minutes with “old man Gasol.”

The Pelicans are a perfect example of the ideal team to get him off the bench. New Orleans had only won one game so Nurse should not have been overly panicked about leaving town with a win even with Boucher getting extra time on the floor.

Prior to traveling to the Big Easy, Boucher played in five games. He averaged less than a point and assist per contest. He also averaged a rebound and block per game. Against the Pelicans, it was another story.

Boucher played 14 minutes and didn’t let up at any point on the floor. He even tried to score with just a couple of seconds left in the game with the Raptors up 18 points. While some might point to that as an attempt to pad his stats, he did show his coach and teammates that he is ready to compete whenever he’s in the game.

Boucher scored five points, claimed eight boards, had one dime, a steal, and a block. His best play of the game was when he followed up on a teammate’s missed shot to put in a big jam over two Pelicans players. It was one of his three offensive rebounds.

Though he did look good, especially defensively, there is still a lot of work Boucher needs to do to round out his game. He has proven that he will play with energy each time out, but that hasn’t helped him stay on assignment.

The 6-foot-9 forward hadn’t made a field goal until last night. He had missed all three of his previous attempts and finally made one of six shots against the Pelicans. Last season, Boucher would let three-pointers fly with reckless abandon, attempting more 3-point shots per 36 minutes than Kyle Lowry. He did so, while only shooting 32.4-percent. If he wants a larger role on the team, this is a large area for improvement.

The biggest obstruction to Boucher getting opportunities could be his age. He is now 26-years-old, which should be when he is at the height of his career. In Nurse’s eyes, it may be better for the organization to develop younger talent who also have high ceilings.

Can Boucher take advantage during Serge Ibaka’s absence?

The Raptors issued a statement on Saturday about the health of both their stars. “Kyle Lowry sustained a fracture of the distal phalanx of his left thumb . . . his injury will be re-evaluated in two weeks.” Due to their shared position, Ibaka’s injury will have a larger impact on Boucher’s playing time. The team’s statement explained that he “sustained a sprained right ankle. Ibaka is to undergo additional imaging in Los Angeles. He will be out indefinitely.”

Should the MRI come back negative, Ibaka may not need to miss much time. While that could be good news for the team and Ibaka himself, it would actually be a hindrance to Boucher’s opportunity. He has the most to gain from Ibaka missing games. Boucher should be the main beneficiary of minutes when the Mafuzzy Chef cannot play.

With the potential of Ibaka missing time to heal his injured right ankle, Boucher should now be preparing both mentally and physically to prove his worth to the Raptors. He will want to show his coach that he is ready to take the next step in his game.

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One thing is certain, Boucher cannot waste a single opportunity. He will need to be ready to play and be sharp whenever he is called to check into a game this season.