No Toronto Raptors player may have benefitted more from their preseason performance than rookie center Christian Koloko. After being billed as a raw project who likely was not going to contribute to the NBA team in his first season, Koloko smashed expectations by not looking out of place when given extended minutes.
Koloko, who blocked slightly under two shots per game in the preseason, ended this exhibition series with a perfect 6-6 night in 17 minutes against the Boston Celtics. He made just under 70% of his shots in the preseason while showing the ability to run the floor well for someone his size.
With Chris Boucher and Otto Porter Jr. both nursing injuries, the expectation is that Koloko will compete for some early rotation time alongside Dalano Banton and Juancho Hernangomez. Nick Nurse confirmed that we will see Koloko with the Raptors this year, but not for as much as some fans would like to see.
Nurse said that Koloko will see some time with the NBA team this year, but the rookie big is also going to get good chunks of minutes with Raptors 905. Nurse proclaimed the fact that there is value in playing entire games with the G League team instead of coming in for a few brief cameos in the NBA.
Will the Toronto Raptors utilize Christian Koloko?
This isn’t too different from what the Raptors did with Dalano Banton during his rookie season last year. In the first part of last season, Banton saw multiple extensive cameos in the rotation before Nurse put him on ice and sent him to Mississauga. Considering how Banton looked in the preseason, this philosophy worked well.
Koloko currently doesn’t have a path to regular playing time, given the state of the Toronto rotation. Names like Precious Achiuwa and Thad Young are clearly above him, and it remains to be seen what Toronto ends up doing with Khem Birch. Will they bench him in favor of the youngster Koloko?
While it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of Koloko’s preseason, Toronto clearly wants him to be a bit more offensively viable before throwing him out on the floor. Committing a few post moves to memory or developing a jumper will be invaluable for him later in his career.
While fans are understandably eager to see their much-ballyhooed prospect get his chance to impress the home crowd as a rotation mainstay, the Raptors don’t think he’s quite ready for primetime just yet. Considering this team’s history, they have earned the benefit of the doubt.