The Toronto Raptors made a very strong draft choice at No. 33 overall in the 2022 NBA Draft, as they addressed their lack of tremendous height by adding 7-1 Arizona center Christian Koloko. Considering how many prognosticators expected him to be picked in the first round, the Raptors were regarded to have pulled off quite the heist.
In a draft that was thin on elite center prospects after the consensus top of the class, Koloko (who won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year) was surprisingly passed over 32 times. Luckily, the Raptors were able to snag someone who fits the physical profile they had been looking for.
Many expect 2022-23 to be a year of learning and gradual improvement for Koloko, as Toronto’s drive to compete for a deep postseason run will lead to him getting more minutes with Raptors 905 than the big-league club. At least, that might be how it initially appears.
The Raptors might be forced to make some changes if Koloko is further along than they anticipated. While it might sound bold to think that Koloko will be a key part of what Toronto does this year, some would have been skeptical if you called Scottie Barnes the Rookie of the Year at this time last year.
Toronto Raptors: 3 bold predictions for rookie Christian Koloko.
3. Average 1.5 blocks per game
The archetype Koloko fits best is a multi-faceted switchblade on the defensive end that starts with both covering multiple positions. His shot-blocking ability was sorely missed on last year’s Raptors team, which was the main reason that Toronto used their lone pick on him.
Koloko averaged 2.2 blocks per game in just 22 minutes per game during Summer League play. With the wingspan needed to defend well outside of the paint and the intuition to become a dominant rim protector, Koloko and former Raptors lottery pick Jakob Poeltl might not be too dissimilar in terms of their styles.
Toronto Raptors: Christian Koloko is a solid shot-blocker.
Over the years, Ujiri has typically liked to draft players with multiple years of collegiate experience. Even though he is a bit of a work in progress as a whole, Koloko’s time with the Wildcats helped sharpen his defensive instincts to a point where he should jump right into an NBA lineup and be a positive force.
Part of the reason that the Raptors have been so successful at finding talent in the 20s and 30s in the NBA Draft is their willingness to throw these youngsters right into the mix. The best way to prove that Koloko can impact the game is to let him cut his teeth in the pros, not hide him in Mississauga.