Five games into the season, the Toronto Raptors have seen some truly inspiring play from early second-round rookie Christian Koloko. The 7-1, 230-pound Arizona big man has brought energy, intensity, and highlight blocks to a Raptors defense that has struggled at times to cover cutting lanes and limit paint points.
An expected project, Koloko is showing his immediate value to a team that’s playing well amid an aggressively tough opening schedule. However, Koloko doesn’t come without his own issues. As the Raptors become fully healthy, one might question if he should stick in the lineup in the immediate future.
From a defensive standpoint, Koloko is showing his ability, but he’s also putting a propensity for common rookie errors and lapses in judgment on display. These moments have mostly been presented in the personal foul column, as Koloko has put up multiple five-foul games despite never playing more than 20 minutes in a game.
Beyond defense, Koloko has soft hands on offense, but is limited to rim running and cleaning up the boards. His pick game is a work in progress, though he does well to keep involved in the half-court movement. When it comes to how much rotation time he should receive, what is the best option out there?
How will the Toronto Raptors use Christian Koloko?
Well, the simple path is one that’s been repeatedly effective for Toronto. The G-League. While Koloko is playable in the NBA, his fouls and low priority in the offensive game may limit his short-term progress.
Following in the footsteps of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Chris Boucher, Koloko can gain valuable playing time in Mississauga. With big minutes on the table, Koloko will be forced to be more aware of his foul count, and his increased usage would allow him to work on his post game and offensive arsenal.
This may not provide the most short-term fun, especially considering how he’s been rock solid on defense, but this might be the best long-term option.
Toronto Raptors: Who will take Christian Koloko’s minutes?
If Koloko heads down to the G League, he leaves roughly 15 minutes to fill. While there are a few options available, the likely candidate for increased floor time is Thad Young. The resigned veteran offers the Raptors a versatile veteran who can play the 3 and 4 while guarding multiple positions.
In the end stage of his career, Young is a great plug-and-play option for mid-game minutes. According to Josh Lewenberg, Nurse has made it clear that Young’s early season absence is not indicative of the rest of the season, so he’s primed to take over Koloko’s minutes, should he slide down to the 905.
The Raptors need to figure out a way to juggle both Koloko’s development and Young’s desire to win now. Striking the right balance will be critical for the rest of the season in a very tough Eastern Conference.