The Toronto Raptors have gone 1-3 for the week, but things are finally starting to click despite the record not being reflective of that.
After the first two weeks of writing this type of article, there have been 1 right and 9 wrongs. And it was rightfully deserved. The Toronto Raptors Raptors were playing very poor and uninspiring basketball to the point where we had to stop watching. But this week the Raptors have trended upwards despite their win-loss column not saying the same story.
In two of their last three games, they have done almost everything right except getting the final result they wanted (we’ll pretend the Boston game didn’t exist for the sake of having some positivity).
They were in the Suns game till the end, but the Suns’ 21 threes were too much to handle for the Raptors. Against the Kings, they more than took care of business with an astounding win. And then their toughest game was a loss against the Warriors last night, which had some questionable officiating.
But the Raptors cannot control that part of the game, and they could’ve sealed the deal had they made their free throws — the Raptors missed 8 of their 22 free throws. So let’s look at what has been in their control, and that starts with the excellent play of center Chris Boucher.
(Just keep in mind some stats in the article were before the Warriors game).
Chris Boucher’s guarantees victory in “Center Roulette”
Nick Nurse has given everyone a fair chance to fight for minutes at the center spot. Over and over again, it is Chris Boucher who is displaying why he is the only center deserving to start. With Aron Baynes doing everything possible to stay off the court (failing to catch a basketball or score a basket from within 3 feet) and Alex Len being too lethargic to be a center in the modern NBA; it should be inconceivable that the Raptors don’t start Chris Boucher moving forward.
In only 21 minutes per game, Chris Boucher is averaging career-highs across the board this season: 13.7 points, 6 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks. But his impact goes beyond his statline. Boucher gives what was the Toronto Raptors’ stagnant offense a weapon they desperately needed, an elite roller of the pick and roll.
Of all rollers off the pick and roll with at least 3 or plus possessions this season, Boucher ranks third in the league in points per possession at 1.50. He is on top of players like Rudy Gobert, Anthony Davis, and Serge Ibaka; while only being under Bam Adebayo who averages 1.79 points per possession, and Nikola Jokic who averages 1.52 points per possession.
He helps the Raptors’ offense flow that much better and also gives them much-needed unpredictability with his willingness to pop.
I understand coach Nurse’s reluctance to start Boucher because of his thin frame and foul troubles. But up until Baynes or Len start playing decent basketball, I don’t see a world where Boucher shouldn’t be the starter moving forward.
It is worth mentioning the incredible stretch Boucher provided in the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors. Boucher essentially played the whole 4th quarter with five fouls and he still managed to put up 2 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, and one steal before finally getting fouled out with 3:22 left in the quarter. Boucher was playing out of his mind and was a big reason for the Raptors’ comeback.
That stretch alone makes can explain why he has the third-highest PER across the league, only behind Jokic and Antetokounmpo. Boucher may not be the All-Star like the players mentioned above — although he has looked like one this past week — but there is one player on the team who is proving a very strong case.