This was a pretty easy decision.
With Birch on the floor last season, the Raptors got a competent two-way big (something that’s trickier to find than you’d think). A classic shot-blocker/rim runner, Birch is not a star at any one thing, but he’ll work hard, play smart, and give you an 8 and 8 every night.
There are two wrinkles with this signing, each going in different directions.
First the negative.
Rim running bigs like Birch, guys who thrive off of pick-and-roll, must have their points fed to them by a ball handler. We’ve seen guys like DeAndre Jordan make All-Star teams because he had Chris Paul getting him open dunks all night.
Kyle Lowry is gone. So the responsibility of driving the car that is the Raptors offense will fall to someone else. Be it Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn, or whoever can fill the playmaking shoes of Kyle Lowry will have a lot of sway over how many points Khem Birch will score this year.
Khem Birch brings size and effort to the Toronto Raptors.
Second, the positive.
Birch really wanted to be here. The one curse of having a basketball franchise in Toronto is that top NBA players won’t want to live outside of their homeland in America.
This obstacle is more palpable than you’d think. Stars like Damon Stoudamire, Steve Francis, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and Kawhi Leonard all jumped ship at the first opportunity to get out of Canada. Though unfounded, the stigma around playing basketball in Canada has had a real impact on the two franchises to settle here.
That’s why having Khem Birch so devoted to playing in Toronto means so much to us. Having Canadians play for their home country, and in turn have their native land cheer them on every night, it’s the kind of thing that helps the team. That, and his ability to secure the paint, is worth $20 million for 3 years.