Toronto Raptors center, Chris Boucher, agreed to a two-year contract worth $13.5 million to return to the team. The second year of his deal is nonguaranteed.
It was a roller coaster ride for the Toronto Raptors and their fans during the first few days of the NBA free agency.
On Nov. 21, Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet agreed to return to the team. While Raptors fans were happy that VanVleet is staying with the team, it was also later that night they were disappointed to find out that Serge Ibaka was leaving Toronto to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The next day, they were also disappointed when saw they saw Marc Gasol was leaving for LA as well, but this time it was the Los Angeles Lakers. Within minutes after the Gasol news, they were pleased to hear that Aron Baynes decided to sign with Toronto and that Chris Boucher re-signs with the Raptors.
With Ibaka and Gasol headed to LA, it’s now Chris Boucher’s time to shine for the Toronto Raptors
Chris Boucher averaged 6.6 PPG and 4.5 last season. Some would say that his stats are not good due to the low numbers, but they are wrong because he is only played 819 minutes which is an average of 13.2 MPG.
In the per 36 minutes stats, he averaged 18.1 PPG and 12.2 RPG. Now that the two centers went to Los Angeles, Boucher has more playing time and his minutes should increase from 13.2 to somewhere between 18-25 minutes.
He is not going to be in the starting lineup because Aron Baynes will be the likely starting center. And quite frankly, Boucher is not ready to be the starting center. He might not be the backup center either because the Raptors recently signed Alex Len.
Since Len is a center, he would be coming off the bench as the backup to Baynes. While Boucher will be most likely the backup power forward to Pascal Siakam due to an open spot at the four.
If Raptors head coach Nick Nurse wants to play a smaller lineup on some nights, he could use Boucher as the backup center.
Boucher can play both the power forward position and the center position. Despite being 6 feet 9, his wingspan is 7 feet 3 and a half wide which is the same wingspan as Gasol.
His wingspan not only allows him to play both the four and the five, but Boucher can also defend both positions.
With his lengthy arms, he has the advantage of grabbing rebounds quicker than most players as well as pressuring players from the opposing team to make tough shots. In the offensive end, his wingspan allows him to take easier shots towards the rim.
While they can still defend him, his length will make the defenders work hard to stop him.
Chris Boucher’s biggest year is ahead of him
He is not going to be this unstoppable force where players cannot defend him like Giannis Antetokounmpo or shoot the lights out like Kevin Durant because that is not who Boucher is. He is an athletic and lengthy guy that can block shots and quickly get to the other side of the court.
His doubters might think that he got overpaid with the $13.5 million deal. And they have a right to feel that way since he was paid $ 1.5 million last year and $457 thousand the year before.
It could also be that since Ibaka and Gasol left the Raptors, they offered that contract to Boucher because they need someone at the center position.
But that’s not how Raptors President Masai Ujiri does his job. There’s a reason Ujiri and General Manager Bobby Webster gave Boucher the $13.5 million contract. They know Boucher will improve and be a key guy that will contribute to the team more than he did last year.
His contract in the second year is nonguaranteed. If he does not play as well as the team had hope he could, they can always cut him.
So, this is pretty much a make-or-break season for Boucher because if he plays well, he has a chance to sign a new contract with more money and security on his deal with the Raptors or any other team in the league. If he does not play well, he might get a contract like the one he got last year or get no contract at all.
However, since Nurse is coaching this team, Boucher will have the opportunity to succeed. He does not need to be an All-Star or close to an All-Star, Boucher can be the difference-maker by blocking shots, grabbing boards, and scoring buckets.
Toronto will miss the three-point shots, rebounding, and shot-blocking ability from Ibaka as well as Gasol’s defense on the other team’s centers and his playmaking ability.
But, with Boucher learning from the two big men in the past two seasons plus his shot-blocking and defense as well as other strengths from Boucher, Raptors fans should be excited for Boucher’s potential this season.