The Toronto Raptors finally made an addition to their frontcourt, as they managed to bring in former Orlando Magic center Khem Birch, as the native Canadian was exiled after the Wendell Carter acquisition. Looking for more playing time, Birch joined up with Toronto, joining a frontcourt led by Chris Boucher.
In his first game against the New York Knicks, Birch provided the Raptors with more of the statistical averages that he compiled in his time with Orlando. In 18 minutes, Birch totaled four points and four rebounds, which is just a hair under his season averages.
Birch had been coming off of the bench in Orlando, and he started his Raptors tenure as a bench player with Boucher in the starting lineup at center. However, given the latter’s very wiry 6-8 frame, he is by no means a natural fit for the position. In fact, that’s probably one big reason why this move was made in the first place.
The Raptors might have no choice but to eventually stick Boucher back on the bench despite his solid play over the last few games, as doing so might help the Raptors properly evaluate Birch’s fit on this team.
Khem Birch should start for Toronto Raptors
Birch’s game is old-school in its basic nature and brutality. Birch is getting down in the low-post, lowering his shoulder, drop-stepping, and either finishing it off with a dunk or soft finish in the paint. On defense, his strength should enable him to be a vacuum cleaner that sucks up rebounds.
Birch will almost assuredly go back to the bench when everyone is fully healthy, as a lineup with Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, and Gary Trent Jr. as the backcourt and the Siakam/OG Anunoby tag team in the frontcourt is the best way to get everyone involved. However, with VanVleet nursing a hip injury, Birch has been given his time to shine.
The problem with Baynes at center was that the pick-and-roll was basically neutralized due to his inability to finish, and his rebounding was subpar. Birch should be given every opportunity to see if he can perform those two tasks and give the Raptors a traditional low-post big with more brute force than Siakam. Doing so could earn him a contract in 2021.
The Raptors know Boucher is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. They know Siakam is not a center. Lastly, they know Birch might be able to somewhat fill their Serge Ibaka-sized hole if he hits his stride.
In a stretch that is as much about talent development as wins and losses, Birch needs to be trusted with the role and responsibilities of a starting center.