Toronto Raptors: Is Chris Boucher the NBA’s 2021 MIP?

Toronto Raptors - Chris Boucher (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Chris Boucher (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors, as a team, are not having a stellar 2021. However, Canadian power forward Chris Boucher could be looking at a MIP award at the end of the season.

The Toronto Raptors are 6-9 this season with a winning percentage of .400. Their quality of play has already claimed one causality, as Raptors’ management has released center Alex Len just a few weeks into his contract. Len has signed on with the Washington Wizards for the remainder of the season.

In his short stint with Toronto, Len lasted just seven games, averaging only 2.3 points in 10.9 minutes a game. Also signed in the 2020  off-season free agency period, Aron Baynes’  play at center hasn’t been any better than Len’s. Their failure and ineffectiveness have been Chris Boucher’s gain, as the Raptors’ six-foot-nine-inch power forward has been making great strides ever since they acquired him back in 2018.

Chris Boucher’s development as a Toronto Raptor

After being a member of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors roster in 2018, he was waived on June 22nd, 2018.  He then signed on with the Toronto Raptors a month later as a free agent. He proceeded to play a total of 56 games, evenly split between the Raptors’ G-League affiliate, the Raptors 905, and the main roster. With the 905, he produced 27.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 4.1 blocks while also shooting 51 percent from the field.

This production in the G-League earned him the honors of being awarded the MVP and Defensive Player of the year, becoming the first G-League player to win both awards in the same year. He would also be a member of Toronto’s championship team in 2019.

Last season, he was a regular member of the Raptors rotation, appearing in 62 games. In 2020, Boucher averaged 6.6 points,  4.5 rebounds, and 1.0 blocked shots per game with a shooting average of 47.2 percent. However, he has exploded into a truly dominant star this season.

Chris Boucher may become the second Toronto Raptor to be named MIP

Currently 28 years old, Boucher may become the second Toronto Raptor to win this award. His frontcourt teammate, Pascal Siakam, won this award in 2019. Previously, there have been five former Toronto Raptors who won this award with other teams. That list includes Alvin Robertson (1986), Jalen Rose (2000), Tracy McGrady (2001), Jermaine O’Neal (2002), and Hedu Turkoglu (2008). However, only Siakam won is as a member of the Raptors.

Boucher has a real shot at winning this award this year, which will continue a trend of the Toronto Raptors developing and producing high-quality talent. Since their 2019 NBA championship, the Raptors have had their players claim the 2019 Finals MVP and the 2020 Coach of the Year award, so this team is no stranger to picking up hardware.

Boucher has upped his scoring totals in 2021 from 6.6 points a game last season to 14.8 points this year. However, it’s not just his scoring that has improved; Boucher is also averaging 2.3 blocks per game, giving a struggling Raptors’ defense a solid rim protector.

With the athletic Serge Ibaka and the versatile Marc Gasol both playing for teams in Los Angeles this season, Boucher has elevated his play as an undersized center, justifying a new contract signed this off-season when he re-signed with Toronto for two years and $13.5 million.

At the moment, Boucher is averaging 23.5 minutes per game and shooting an efficient 58.6 percent from the field with an outstanding 49.1 percent average on his three-point attempts. He has also increased his scoring by eight points a game over his 6.6 average last year.

Boucher may face tough competition for the MIP award in 2021 as a player like Christian Wood of the Houston Rockets is also turning heads. Wood has improved his scoring over 10 points to 23.5 points per game and nearly doubled his rebounding to 8.7 per game from his last season totals.

However, whether or not Boucher claims the MIP award in 2021, his play this season has been a huge positive for a Raptors team trying to rediscover its form from a season ago.