Raptors: Ace Sixth Man Chris Boucher is ready to carry the load

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 14: Chris Boucher #25 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 14: Chris Boucher #25 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

Let’s start with the bad news. Kyle Lowry, Chris Boucher, and the Toronto Raptors have lost their last three games, first to the lowly Pistons (129-105) on March 3rd, then to the Celtics on March 4th (132-125), and on Thursday to the Hawks, (121-120).

Thursday’s game, the Raptors first after the All-Star Break, was an All-Star heartbreaker. After being down 19 points in the first half, the Raptors came back with an impressive lead that at one point had them ahead 15 points.

There were definitely bright spots in this game, with three players, who had a combined total of 79 points, accounting for 65.8% of the Raptors 120 point scoreboard. Norman Powell posted 33 points, Boucher popped in 29 and Lowry scored 17 points to move him into second place behind DeMar DeRozan, (at 13,296 points), for most points scored by a Toronto Raptor.

The traffic around the Hawks net in the second half of the game was busier than the 401 on a Friday night of a long weekend. Powell played the kind of game that earned him the Stormin’ Norman moniker. Lowry was in-play, not giving a nano-second thought to the what-must-be-super-distracting bandage running smack dab under his left eye.

But it was Boucher that owned the game against the Hawks on Thursday night, with his two-three pointers (50%), 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and a Gumby-twist of his body at the basket deep into the fourth quarter that scored the ringer that pumped up his team’s hope of a win.

If Tony Snell hadn’t made his 3-pointer buzz ball in the final seconds of the game, we’d be going into tonight’s game pumped with a victory.

Where does Chris Boucher fit into the Raptors roster going forward?

To begin with, Boucher, who is averaging 14.0 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, is a true athlete with the creds to back it up. He was the NBA G League’s MVP in 2018-2019, and the NBA G League Defensive Player of the Year, the first player to win both awards in the same season.

And Boucher is willing to listen, willing to emulate some of the Raptors bigs that have played before him. At 28, Boucher is no longer a young player – he is moving, in fact, into veteran territory. He has to make his splash now.

In a December 2020 interview with Erick Smith and Paul Jones, Boucher indicated that consistency and game IQ were skills that two of his former teammates, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol.

"“When it comes to Serge, it’s being ready every day and being consistent — I think he was really consistent every day,” Boucher stated in the December interview. “You knew what you were going to get from Serge every day. When it comes Marc, it’s just his IQ — you want to be able to do all that stuff, you want to be able to be versatile when you watch Marc and the plays he does, you’re like damn I want to be able to do that stuff.”"

Does Chris Boucher deserve an opportunity to be a starter in the future

His 2021 record against Charlotte is solid. He scored 25 points in the January 14th game, and 20 points in the January 16th game against them. And in his last three games, it is evident that not only is Boucher gaining momentum, but he is also gaining the kind of confidence and consistency that promotes belief at the rim.

Given how bad Aron Baynes has been this season, Hawks game notwithstanding, and the fact that Boucher changes the shape of the offense when he’s on the floor, it is certainly worth Nurse swapping the lineups around. With so many stars out due to the league’s health and safety protocols, this is a worthy experiment for the struggling Raptors.

With strong support behind Boucher being named Sixth Man of the Year, not to mention Most Improved Player, I say go for it- give Boucher a starting spot on the roster, and let’s see what he can do.

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