Raptors need to keep Kelly Olynyk as a closer after stellar performance vs. Hawks

Kelly Olynyk's closing impact in Raptors' victory is looking like another prime example of "trust Masai".
Cleveland Cavaliers v Toronto Raptors
Cleveland Cavaliers v Toronto Raptors / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

The All-Star break seemingly worked wonders for the Toronto Raptors as they followed up their dominant victory over Brooklyn with a strong win over Atlanta, despite being on a back-to-back. Immanuel Quickley doubled down on his 24-point game performance and tied a season-high six three-pointers made. Scottie Barnes played to his usual versatile self, recording 20 points, 10 assists, and five rebounds. And Gradey Dick had a solid game off of the bench, scoring 18 points on solid efficiency.

But, it was the recently acquired Kelly Olynyk who deserves the most praise, as his important plays in the closing minutes of the game ultimately gave Toronto the win. It came as a surprise when Toronto made a buyer move at the trade deadline, acquiring Kelly Olynyk and teammate Ochai Agbaji from the Utah Jazz in exchange for Kira Lewis Jr., Otto Porter Jr., and a late 2024 first-round pick. What might've looked like an ill-advised decision at first glance quickly garnered attention as a sleeper move by the Raptors front office.

Kelly Olynyk is quickly becoming an impactful player for the Toronto Raptors.

Olynyk is quietly one of the league's most versatile big-men, and despite being on an expiring deal, the Canadian big is certainly an asset you can retain at tremendous value. The Toronto Raptors have longed for significant big man depth in the years post-Ibaka/Gasol, and although re-acquiring Jakob Poeltl at last year's deadline, one could make the argument of Kelly Olynyk outplaying the costly Poeltl. Jakob is not a terrible player by any means, but Olynyk is making starter-level impacts despite his backup role.

In the closing stages against Atlanta, Toronto found themselves only up two with just over two and a half minutes remaining. It was Kelly Olynyk who made a huge play with mere seconds remaining, banking in a turnaround jumper ala Dirk Nowitzki. It soon became an amazing sequence as Olynyk got a sneaky block on Jalen Johnson on the Hawks' possession. Add in a closing play where he found Bruce Brown for a quick dunk, and that sealed the deal on a Toronto triumph.

If he can keep up his superb play, there is no question Darko Rajaković should continue to close out games with Kelly Olynyk in the lineup. He is a masterful set of eyes with a solid IQ for the game to help lead a young Toronto core when games come down to the wire. Add in the fact that K.O. himself stated he'd like to retire as a Raptor, what more could you ask for in a player?