Who is the odd man out in Raptors rotation with Khem Birch back?

Nov 15, 2021; Portland, Oregon, USA; Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch (24) dunks the ball. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 15, 2021; Portland, Oregon, USA; Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch (24) dunks the ball. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports /

The Toronto Raptors were able to welcome a familiar face back to the fold, as Khem Birch appears to be ready to return from his knee injury. While Toronto’s game against Orlando was postponed, Birch could still be in like to bring his signature blend of rebounding and post play to the Raptors once again.

Birch is averaging 6.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, but his impact on the team goes beyond the box score. Birch is a rock-solid defensive player with the post presence to help one of the worst rebounding teams in the league find some consistency in that area.

With Birch returning to the rotation, the Raptors will have to make some tough choices when Pascal Siakam and Dalano Banton are cleared to return. Toronto has picked up some impressive wins without Birch in the lineup, but they will need to break up their established rhythm to get Khem some minutes.

Toronto will put Birch back in the rotation, and that means that someone has to fall out of favor in order to make a space for him. Who will be the odd man out for the Toronto Raptors? Will Birch push Precious Achiuwa, Chris Boucher, or a guard out of the lineup regularly?

Who will the Raptors bench with Khem Birch healthy again?

The Raptors could surprise us and give Svi Mykhailiuk fewer minutes, but with a lack of perimeter scoring on this roster outside of him, this could create some problems. Ultimately, one of either Boucher or Achiuwa will see his minutes reduced as a result of Birch’s return.

Achiuwa may have started the season off poorly, but his play has been much better of late. Since November 21, Achiuwa is averaging 10.3 points per game on 47% shooting while pulling down 7.5 rebounds. When he’s been playing that well, why should he see his minutes reduced?

Boucher might be even less likely to see a reduction in time, as he started at center over Achiuwa against the Warriors. Over his last six games, Boucher is averaging 12.7 points per game on 56% shooting. He’s looking more like the two-way sensation that we saw in Tampa.

Ultimately, Toronto might decide to give both Achiuwa and Boucher an equal amount of minutes in the next few games to determine which player should be dropped. Perhaps Nurse could lean on some bigger lineups to accommodate both of them?

The Raptors went from having no centers to figuring out how to avoid a logjam at the position. How they handle this decision could have some serious impact on the win-loss record.

Next. NBA Rookie Ladder: Where is Scottie Barnes?. dark