How Khem Birch has fixed the Toronto Raptors in two key areas

TAMPA, FLORIDA - APRIL 18: Khem Birch #24 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - APRIL 18: Khem Birch #24 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /

It’s been a very frustrating season for the Toronto Raptors this year, to say the least. However, with the acquisition of Khem Birch, it has given this team some hope down the stretch.

The Raptors haven’t had the ideal 2020-21 season that they were all hoping for. From being forced to play their home games in Tampa Bay due to COVID-19, to multiple injuries, to even COVID-19 hitting the team, this season has been a complete disaster for the majority of the time.

However, despite the Raptors currently sitting in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 26-36, there is still a play-in tournament that the Raptors have their eyes on, and Birch is helping them reach that goal.

Now that the Raptors have a good center in Birch that can actually rebound the basketball, score down low, and just looked good in most aspects thus far, this Raptors team has gotten a boost offensively and defensively. They could potentially make a run for the play-in tournament if they truly desire.

Khem Birch has helped the Toronto Raptors in an unlucky season

I’m more than certain everyone who follows this team knows what has happened this season.

They were forced to play their home games down in Tampa for this season due to the pandemic, they were hit with the injury bug, then they were slapped with COVID-19 problems. They just couldn’t really find their groove at any point during this season.

Another reason why they haven’t had the best of seasons was due to the play and production of center Aron Baynes. Baynes was signed by the Raptors this past off-season after losing both Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol to both Los Angeles teams.

He came into Toronto to just simply fill a void at the center position, in my opinion, because Baynes cannot do the things that both Ibaka and Gasol are capable of.

Baynes has struggled heavily shooting the ball from legitimately everywhere on the floor this season and hasn’t even been relatively good defensively either. However, fast forward through the season and the Raptors might’ve just found their missing piece that Baynes couldn’t be for this team.

Khem Birch is doing what Aron Baynes can’t.

Birch was signed by the Toronto Raptors back in early April after the Orlando Magic bought him out. To say the least, Birch has been a tremendous signing for this team in the second half of the season due to the abilities he’s able to bring to the floor, unlike Baynes.

In the nine games this season with his new squad, the Canadian has averaged career highs in points, rebounds, and assists per game, as he is currently averaging 9.7 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, and 1.2 assists per game with his new team.

It’s not just Birch’s offense that has given the Raptors a boost, but it’s also been his defense and his ability to protect the rim and do a better job at it compared to when Baynes was looked at as the main center on this team.

This season Birch has also averaged career-highs on the defensive side of the ball as he is averaging 0.8 steals per game and also averaging 1.4 blocks per game. Both those numbers are significantly better than Baynes’ averages, as he’s averaging 0.3 steals per game and 0.4 blocks per game.

Toronto’s offensive and defensive ratings are also much better with Birch on the floor.

It just goes to show how poor of a defensive player Baynes was this season for the Raptors after their biggest need was a center that was capable of protecting the rim like Ibaka and Gasol were for this Raptors team in seasons past.

Khem Birch fixed two key areas for the Toronto Raptors.

Birch has come in and immediately improved this team offensively and defensively with the way he’s been playing through the nine games so far.

Not that the Raptors were struggling offensively, but their production from their big men just wasn’t there besides Chris Boucher. However, he was mainly coming off the bench, and they didn’t have a big man they were confident in starting at the five at the start of games.

With the signing of Birch, it’s now given the Raptors two legit big men that can produce on offense and protect the rim.

With the Toronto Raptors 1.5 games back from the final spot for the play-in tournament, they can legitimately make a push and try and secure that last spot if they truly desire to try and make a run in the playoffs now that they have a starting center.

If not, then they might as well just look forward to the draft lottery and look forward to this coming offseason so that they can prepare for next season and be hopeful that they can return back home to Toronto.

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