The Toronto Raptors can leave the 2022 NBA Draft with their heads held high. Not only did they manage to address their lack of height and shot-blocking, but they were able to draft a player in Arizona’s Christian Koloko that many believed would have come off of the board in the first round.
Koloko averaged 12.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game with the Wildcats last year in only 25 minutes per game. While he doesn’t have the most refined offensive game at the moment, Toronto saw something in him physically that helped swing Masai Ujiri and convince him that he’s worth a draft pick.
Even with all of the chaos emanating from both of Toronto’s rivals in New York, the Raptors need to make sure that they check all the boxes to have a successful offseason and keep their place in the playoff fixture tier. Adding a player like Koloko is an excellent way to start.
The Raptors should come out of the draft feeling really good about where they are headed, as the Koloko pick was met with some near-unanimous praise. However, as is the case with any new addition of this magnitude, some players are going to be given the short end of the stick.
Toronto Raptors: Winners and losers after the 2022 NBA Draft
Loser: Khem Birch
Birch went from a feel-good story after earning his big three-year contract with the Raptors last offseason to a player that is on the verge of totally losing his spot in the rotation. After averaging just 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last year, Birch now has some competition.
Even though names like Chris Boucher and Thad Young were clearly superior frontcourt scoring options on offense, Birch kept getting playing time thanks to his muscle in the paint and offensive rebounding prowess. Koloko can provide all of that at his best, along with his mouth-watering defensive potential.
Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch may compete with Christian Koloko.
If Birch can show that he has put last year’s injury-riddled mess behind him and returned to being the player we all know and love from the Tampa bubble, Koloko might end up spending most of his time with Raptors 905. If not, things could get very interesting rather quickly.
The Raptors wouldn’t use their only pick in the draft Koloko if they didn’t think he had the tools to become a rotation fixture after some proper development time. Birch went from rock-solid backup to question mark last year, and Koloko might just take advantage.