Toronto Raptors 2022-23 season preview: C Christian Koloko
The Toronto Raptors didn’t have a first-round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, but that didn’t stop them from adding one of the best center prospects this class had to offer in Christian Koloko. Toronto likes being positionless, but turning down a premium athlete who happens to be 7-1 would be foolish.
Fresh off winning the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award, Koloko is coming into Toronto as a bit of a raw prospect. While he is regarded as a defensive standout who is going to give the Raptors the skyscraping skill they lacked, some around the team appear to be cautiously optimistic about Koloko’s true potential.
The Cameroonian big man will likely start the year in Mississauga with Raptors 905, as Toronto drafted him with the expectation that he would contribute down the line rather than the second he touched down in Canada. He has some rough edges around his game that need to be smoothed out.
Even with those reasonable doubts abound, Koloko figures to play a role with Toronto during this upcoming season. The Raptors were willing to roll out the red carpet for Scottie Barnes when he proved that he was ready for advanced NBA minutes, and they could do something similar with Koloko if his skills shine through.
Christian Koloko is going to be important for the Toronto Raptors.
Stats: 12.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.4 APG, 2.8 BPG, 64% FG
Koloko won some deserved praise for his Summer League performance, as he managed to own the paint on the defensive end completely. Averaging over two blocks per game in just 22 minutes on the floor is impressive for someone who was playing in college just a few months ago.
Koloko was working on getting his 3-point shot in order during Summer League play. While he wasn’t draining 3-balls regularly, the solid form that he showed off gave hope that it could eventually be a weapon for him.
Koloko is going to be a defensive menace early in his career, as he has the quick feet needed to be mobile and the long limbs that someone in the Myles Turner archetype possesses. A tremendous dunker near the rim and promising passer for a big his size, Koloko is not just a lumbering big that has to be stuck in the paint.
The main reason that Koloko was even available that late in the draft was the fact some teams were genuinely concerned about his ability to contribute on offense. His high field goal percentage in college is overshadowed by some iffy moves far away from the basket and a lack of a jumper. Eric Khoury will have his work cut out for him.
Koloko needs to ensure that he can show tangible offensive improvement by the All-Star break, as doing so might alter Toronto’s rotation plans and force them to lean on their stretchy bulldozer in the restricted area. However, neither he nor fans should be overly disappointed if he takes a bit longer to realize that potential.
Koloko will be an exercise in patience, and the Raptors need to practice the virtues that helped this team compete for titles every year for a half-decade to make sure he comes along nicely.