Do the Toronto Raptors need to find time for Chris Boucher?

Toronto Raptors - Chris Boucher (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Chris Boucher (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

With the Toronto Raptors nearing full strength, Chris Boucher has found himself on the outside looking in. Is it time to get the Canadian back into the fold?

Early in the 2019-2020 NBA season, the Toronto Raptors were forced to delve deep into their bench and test their depth as Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka missed significant time to injury.

As many pundits have noted, those injuries may have been a blessing in disguise, as it allowed for several players to blossom, and one of those blossoming stars was young Canadian forward Chris Boucher.

With Ibaka and Lowry returning, however, Boucher’s minutes and impact have decreased, and the overall play from the team has dipped. That has resulted in the question being asked: Do the Toronto Raptors need to find time for Chris Boucher?

The short answer is yes, but only once you evaluate Boucher’s entire path do you realize just how deserving he is of the opportunity.

Boucher has had a short albeit interesting journey to where he currently finds himself. For example, the Montreal native was washing dishes at the age of 19 while most NBA hopefuls we’re already locking up big money endorsements and contracts.

This underdog story is something that Chris embraces though. His torn ACL in college at Oregon meant that he went unselected in the NBA draft. He spent his first NBA campaign on a two-way contract with the Golden State Warriors, and only appeared in one game over the course of the season. In 2018, Boucher signed a two-way with the Raptors, and that was when everything began to turn.

Boucher made a few appearances for the Raptors last season, but his main accomplishment was winning the G-League MVP Award. Boucher was beginning to not only prove that he belonged, but that he was a bright young star that the Raptors would have to pay attention to for seasons to come.

Despite the previous successes, hype remained fairly low on Boucher heading into the season from casual and even certain diehard fans. The forward undoubtedly has a high ceiling, but his game was still quite raw, and so it seemed as if meaningful NBA minutes would be the only way to properly evaluate his current standing.

In the first six games of the season, Boucher compiled a few DNP’s (did not play’s), and only averaged around four minutes of playtime. These were mainly garbage time minutes, and he wasn’t being utilized whilst he was on the court, so it continued to be difficult to get a read on Boucher.

As previously mentioned, however, the injuries to Lowry and Ibaka changed everything. Especially in Serge Ibaka’s case, the Raptors were missing their backup big man, and this allowed for both Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris Boucher to see a significant spike in minutes.

Serge Ibaka missed 11 games due to his ankle injury, and the Canadian took full advantage. Boucher was getting anywhere from 12 to 25 minutes during this stretch and really began to show his value. With his lanky build, Boucher was a threat on the glass, and for a team that struggles with rebounding, he offered much-needed security near the rim.

On top of that, Boucher was shooting the ball well and pitching in with valuable offense; proving himself as a very capable three-point shooter who can let it fly with confidence.

Due to his outstanding performances and high character, Boucher quickly became a fan favourite amongst diehard and casual fans alike. He seemed to always be one of the hardest workers on the court, and although he isn’t always the most technically gifted, he is the kind of gritty player that you need on your side.

The only issue was that the main reason behind Boucher’s surge was Ibaka’s injury, and once Serge came back on December 1st, things began to regress back to how they were before. Boucher went from extended minutes to back down to low minutes and didn’t play at all against Miami on December 3rd.

Against Chicago, coach Nick Nurse finally found a way for Boucher to get back into the lineup, as he played for 14 minutes with five points and five rebounds. The three most recent games since then however have shown Boucher only get around 9.1 minutes-per-game, a far cry from what he was experiencing just a few weeks prior.

This brings us back to the original question: Do the Raptors need to find more time for Chris Boucher? It’s hard to say no when knowing his backstory, but don’t get it twisted: this is not just a feel-good story about hard work paying off. Boucher’s game speaks for itself.

When delving into the world of per 36 minutes numbers, Chris Boucher averages an impressive 16.1 points per game and 12.5 rebounds per game. When it comes to Player Efficiency Rating, Boucher leads the team with a rating of 20.02, good enough for 44th-best in the league. With the advanced stats taken into account, It is no coincidence that his increased minutes occurred at the same time as the Raptors playing their best basketball of the season; Boucher had a role in that.

Another factor is the current play of Serge Ibaka. The Congo-born big man has been inconsistent with his shot and overall game since returning from injury, and frankly, it’s hurting the team. The Raptors are already forced to sacrifice buckets with the defensive-minded Marc Gasol, and now Ibaka off of the bench has not been providing consistent offense either, shooting at 37-percent from the field since returning. More minutes for Boucher could mean more offensive potential for the Raptors, and may create a different look to get the Raptors back to firing on all cylinders.

Offense aside, Chris Boucher is a dynamic big-man who although not perfect, can certainly help the Raptors in the rebounding department as well, which is one of their biggest weaknesses at the moment.

If Boucher can carve out a consistent role off of the bench for himself where he is comfortable and able to impact the game with energy once he enters, he will end this season as one of the Raptors most valuable pieces off of the bench, and could become one of the most beloved players on the roster.

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Admittedly, that might be getting ahead of ourselves. The first step should just be to increase Boucher’s minutes, because given the teams play in the month of December; this is certain: The Toronto Raptors must find more time for Chris Boucher.

That may not be a sentence that experts around the NBA ever thought they would hear.