The era of the shooting big man in the NBA is alive and well, and Toronto Raptors power forward Chris Boucher is the latest example
Centers who can spread the floor and shoot from deep have proven to be an asset to NBA teams, transforming even some of the most traditional centers into 3-point threats. Because of this shift, many young players coming into the league have also adapted this modern playstyle.
Former G-League MVP Chris Boucher has been garnering some attention of late, putting together big showings in the opportunities he has had this season. Boucher was given his chance to shine this season in the recent absence of Serge Ibaka from the bench unit. This injury, despite handicapping the team, paved the way for Boucher to show what he can do in a meaningful role with the team.
Before Ibaka suffered his ankle sprain, Boucher was seldom used in the rotation only accounting for six minutes a game and 1.5 points per game (PPG). Ibaka, on the other hand, was averaging 23 minutes game before going down, causing him to miss 10 games before returning to last Sunday’s game against the Utah Jazz.
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In that time without Ibaka, the hometown favorite filled in seamlessly with the bench rotation. Boucher averaged 9.1 points per game over the span while seeing his minutes increase to nearly 18 per game, assuming nearly all of Ibaka’s former time on the court. Boucher’s impact on both ends of the floor has shown his +/- numbers to rise, with the Raptors outscoring opponents by an average of +5.3 with him on the floor, according to Basketball-Reference.
Despite this recent success, Boucher now finds himself in a tough spot in the rotation. With Marc Gasol and Ibaka assuming the helm at the five spots, Boucher is going to have to continue to fight for his minutes within the “Bench Mob.” During Ibaka’s return Sunday night, Boucher’s time on the court was cut to just under five minutes. In the team’s most recent game, Monday night against the Chicago Bulls, Boucher did see the floor for 14 minutes.
The Raptors are no strangers to having their G-League players make their way into the NBA lineup. Following in the steps of players such as Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam before him, Boucher has made his way through the system and now is faced with the challenge of making the next leap.
In the case of VanVleet, his breakout began when fellow point guard Delon Wright was traded away to the Memphis Grizzlies in the Marc Gasol deal. This trade silenced the then pressing question of who should back up Kyle Lowry at point guard, allowing Fred to develop into the starter he is today.
This 2019-20 Raptors team is speculated to once again be a buyer at the trade deadline, following their early-season success. Recent NBA rumors have suspected that Serge Ibaka or Marc Gasol may possibly be on the trading block to acquire former Raptor DeMar DeRozen, according to a recent by HoopsHype. If one of the Raptors big men are traded away, Boucher would have space in the Raptors depth chart to develop at the center position.
Despite these rumors, any future deals are still unknown for the team. If Gasol and Ibaka continue to hold down the five spot, the Raptors could consider Boucher to play power forward instead. Only listed and 6-foot-9, Boucher is still able to make a big impact despite being undersized for the position. However, because of his slim frame, the Canadian has had a tough time facing larger opponents deep in the paint.
A move to the power forward spot may allow Boucher to utilize his quickness and shooting ability more effectively. By spacing the floor and drawing defenders to the 3-point arc more often, more shots would begin to open for other players in the offense.
The four spot is currently held by Pascal Siakam with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson being brought in for relief. Boucher would have a better opportunity to get time on the court playing power forward, instead of battling the two proven veterans at center.
Chris Boucher’s G-League success story is has been a truly inspiring one, especially for Canadian basketball fans. After proving his value with the shorthanded team, Boucher will look to get more time on the court moving forward.