It didn’t take long for Toronto Raptors big Chris Boucher to go from a relatively unknown name to G-League MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. In just 28 games for the Raptors 905, Boucher averaged some Shaq-esque numbers, putting up 27.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 4.1 blocks while shooting 51 percent from the field.
Among players who appeared in at least 28 games, Boucher ranked third in scoring, sixth in rebounding, and first in blocks. The Raptors recognized that Boucher had some untapped raw breakout potential and officially signed him to an NBA deal in February 2019.
Fast forward to the 2020-21 offseason, when Toronto officially lost Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. Nick Nurse is in a position where he’s forced to give the bench warmers a real shot. The tandem of Gasol and Ibaka are not easily replaceable on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, but Raptors made a smart move by paying Boucher $13.5 million and locking him up for two more years.
Now before you fans of Ma Fuzzy Chef come raining down on me with troll comments and diss tracks, the numbers, when compared, are on Boucher’s side here.
Toronto Raptors big man Chris Boucher’s numbers this year are comparable with that of Ibaka last year
In just his 4th year in the league, when he gets at least 20 minutes per game, Boucher is averaging 14.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 1.7 on three-pointers made with efficient numbers of 58 percent from the field, 78 percent from the line, and a scorching 49 percent from three (good for ninth place in the league).
Compare that to Serge Ibaka’s numbers in his 4th year with OKC: 13.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game with percentages of 57 percent from the field, 74 percent, from the free-throw line, and 35 percent from three in 31 minutes per game. While we can take his offensive numbers with a grain of salt, as he was playing with future MVPs and high usage players in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, that doesn’t nullify his production.
Let’s get one thing straight. Ibaka has quite a solid NBA resume. In his 12 NBA seasons, he has racked up 3 All-Defensive 1st Team selections (2012-2014), he’s a 2-time blocks leader (2012, 2013) and, of course, he was a crucial part of the Raptors run to the 2019 NBA Championship.
While Boucher is nowhere near as accomplished his raw potential on both ends of the floor is everything you want from a big man in today’s fast-paced NBA.
Remember those G-League MVP numbers from earlier? Boucher’s per 36 numbers this season. 22.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.7 three-pointers made, and 3.5 blocks per game, are right up there with those fantastic G League stats. Those blocks are comparable to when Serge led the league in blocks in 2012 (27 minutes per game) and 2013 (30 minutes per game).
If you’ve seen the Raptors play this season, you know that his impact goes way beyond the numbers. Standing at 6-10, his albatross-like 7-4 wingspan allows him to switch on picks while closing out and defending the three extremely well. He has some impeccable timing in the paint and knows when it’s okay to leave his man to help on the weak side by altering shots, deflecting them, or sending it right into the stands.
On the offensive end, his quick release and accuracy from downtown make him a perennial threat from three-point territory. In the month of January, Boucher is shooting 51 percent from downtown, good for 4th in the NBA. Opposing big men are forced to guard him far out of the paint, which allows slashers like Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet the space to drive to the rim. The pick and roll connection between the point guards and Boucher has been a thing of beauty this season. They trust him with the ball, as he’s most definitely earned that by making smart plays and cuts to the rim or consistently knocking it down from deep.
In just 23.5 minutes per game this season, Boucher has put the league on notice, as he’s currently being talked about as a potential contender for both the Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year awards. If he was given starter’s minutes, dare I say that he would at least be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year?
There is no wondering who Boucher is any longer, as he’s proving that he can be a bonafide starter in the NBA. With the Raptors waiving Alex Len and Aron Baynes potentially playing his way out of the rotation, Boucher’s time to shine is now.
Your move, Coach Nurse.