The Toronto Raptors might have three centers on the roster at the moment, but they are still going to use the trade deadline as an avenue with which they can explore all sorts of potential trades. One of the main reasons they are headed down this path is the declining play of Khem Birch.
A Montreal native who spent his career as a backup in Orlando, Birch joined the Raptors in Tampa last season and put up the best numbers of his career. He parlayed that into a three-year contract worth $20 million with the goal of providing some muscle and interior defense on Toronto’s unique roster.
So far, Birch has looked more like the average big we saw with the Magic than any sort of difference-maker. Birch is averaging 5.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, which is almost identical to his career averages. He’s also played in just 26 of Toronto’s 51 games, as knee swelling, COVID-19, and a broken nose have all sidelined him.
With Toronto aggressively looking to add some height at the deadline, is it fair to question Birch’s spot on the roster? With younger players that have a higher ceiling starting to take his minutes away, Birch is becoming an awkward fit on this depth chart.
Will the Toronto Raptors hold on to Khem Birch?
Birch has averaged just 2.5 points per game on 36% shooting and 3.4 rebounds per game since the start of the new year. Since returning from his nose injury, Birch has scored just two points and hasn’t played more than nine minutes in any game. That’s not production worthy of nearly $7 million per season.
Birch is third in the center pecking order. Chris Boucher has been such an excellent bench piece that he might have increased his value to a point where the front office holds off on trading him. Precious Achiuwa, who was recently invited to the Rising Stars game, can be inconsistent on offense, but he is a quality rebounder and switchable defender.
While Birch may have looked like a funky fit on this roster, that could’ve been alleviated if he came in and gave Toronto the veteran presence they needed to hold their own against some of the best centers in the East. Thanks to injury and his own performance, that hasn’t happened.
Birch is a legit NBA player, but it just seems like he isn’t the right fit for Toronto at this moment in time. Be it at the trade deadline or in the offseason, the Raptors may need to get something of value for him to eliminate the center logjam and improve their shooting off of the bench.