The Toronto Raptors have been willing to throw rookie center Christian Koloko into the fire during preseason action, giving the Arizona product every opportunity to show that he is worthy of becoming an NBA backup. The early results have been extremely encouraging.
Koloko doesn’t look out of place in the NBA, nor does he look like someone that is a complete non-factor on the offensive end. His defensive skills have been hyped all offseason long, and he’s managed to flex his muscles by blocking six shots in four preseason games.
Koloko appears to be blocked by young guns like Precious Achiuwa and veterans like Pascal Siakam, but they will have to make way for Toronto’s prized youngster at some point. Nick Nurse believes Koloko is much closer to making an impact at the professional level than originally anticipated.
In an appearance on the Bob McCown podcast, Nurse said that Koloko might end up playing more than some fans thought he would at the beginning of the year, citing the fact that his skill set helps fill a major hole. One year after Dalano Banton showed he was too good for Mississauga, Koloko could be on that same path.
Will the Toronto Raptors use Christian Koloko this season?
Koloko averaged 3.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game in around 13 minutes per game. If he can average numbers anywhere close to that on the floor this season, that will constitute quite the successful debut campaign for the Arizona alum.
While he is clearly a limited offensive player at this point in time, he has made a couple of post shots in the preseason that go beyond just dunking the ball. Nurse has never been shy about letting offensively raw players figure things out on the floor in real-time during his career.
Koloko has often come into preseason games before veteran Khem Birch following a disappointing 2021-22 season. Considering how Nurse has generally leaned on his starters and projected rotation in the first half of preseason games, this could be a sign that Koloko has jumped over Birch in the pecking order.
If nothing else, Koloko and his 7-1 frame will help the Raptors become a better rebounding and shot-blocking team this season. They struggled in both of those areas last season. With a coaching staff littered with developers like Nurse, Earl Watson, and Rico Hines, it’s only a matter of time before Koloko becomes a solid scorer.