Missing Christian Koloko could be a major problem for the Raptors

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 30: Christian Koloko #35 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 30: Christian Koloko #35 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors are trying to make sure the vibes are as positive as can be heading into the 2023-24 NBA season, but things have already gotten off to an unfortunate start thanks to the status of promising second-year center Christian Koloko.

Even with so many veteran forwards on the bench, Koloko’s size at 7-1 and Toronto’s relative lack of success in small-ball lineups without a traditional center last year could create a very easy pathway to regular playing time in the 2023 season. At least, it could if he stays healthy.

The respiratory issue that kept Koloko out of Summer League play will sideline him early in the preseason and could potentially bleed over into the regular season. Not only is this a bad break for Koloko personally, but it will be more challenging for new coach Darko Rajakovic as he tries to create a solid rotation.

With Jakob Poeltl going to be a big part of what Toronto wants to do in the paint, Koloko coming off the bench may have played a big role in Rajakovic’s new-look attack. Instead, Koloko may not see the floor for some time, leaving a 7-1 hole in the team’s second unit.

The Toronto Raptors could struggle without Christian Koloko.

With Rajakovic openly discussing an expanded rotation, it makes sense as to why Koloko would be given a chance to back up Poeltl. In his rookie year, his offensive issues were often superseded by tremendous mobility and shot-blocking that earned him a handful of starts.

Given Rajakovic’s history with developing big men into quality two-way performers, the idea of getting Koloko to commit a few post moves to memory and work on his face-up game could be a smashing success for this team. Defensively, Koloko has already established himself. 

Without Koloko in the lineup, small-ball options like the 6-8 Precious Achiuwa and Chris Boucher might need to take over that role in his absence briefly. Achiuwa in particular could thrive in certain areas, but his limitations in such a scheme were laid bare for all to see last season.

Koloko is not going to be a high-impact scorer, but he could play a role in keeping the team’s structure in place and making sure Rajakovic’s defense holds up. With his injury potentially keeping things in a state of flux for the next few weeks, Toronto will likely head into the regular season with more bench questions.