With Malachi Flynn out with harm, Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors opted to relaxation the workforce’s simplest actual level guard on the night time, and so they made the maximum Raptors’ selection conceivable in his substitute: the workforce’s simplest 7-footer. Toronto sat its smallest participant to start out its tallest one. Who wishes Vision 6’9 when you’ll have Power 7’1? And Christian Koloko got here out of the gate towards the Houston Rockets like a space on fireplace.
He grabbed an offensive rebound on Toronto’s first offensive ownership. Forced a couple of misses on the following defensive stand. Sometimes it’s very, very helpful to be tall. Even extra vital, Koloko is tall and sleek, and he’s in a position to shift his momentum with relative ease for a person his dimension. That by itself makes it moderately simple to affect the defensive finish. And affect he did, accumulating 4 blocks in his 17 mins whilst forcing a number of misses with out blockading the shot.
The Raptors had a dire need in that specific space final season. Despite rostering a number of in my view proficient rim protectors, together with Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa, Chris Boucher, and O.G. Anunoby — all of whom have been statistically spectacular at forcing misses round the rim — the workforce was once missing. The Raptors completed twenty second in opposing accuracy at the rim, which is unusual taking into account the stage of rim-protection ability on the workforce. But actually it simply is going to turn: Sometimes it’s more uncomplicated to let tall guys offer protection to the rim than ask your massive wings to give protection to as a collective. Or put in a different way: Don’t make the simple stuff arduous.
Koloko makes the simple stuff simple.
But he did greater than that towards the Rockets. He became a postup right into a nifty hook shot — one thing he’s accomplished a couple of instances now right through preseason. Koloko is also a behemoth, however the Raptors aren’t going to present him postups apart from on the uncommon instance. Still, it’s helpful that he can convert. If groups transfer a Koloko-as-screener choose and roll, realizing the rookie giant can throw in a hook shot or two is a smart counterpunch to defuse that defensive instrument. Moreover, in the first few video games of preseason, he confirmed nice pick-and-roll chemistry with Siakam and Flynn particularly.
Maybe a 7-footer throwing in a hook shot or atmosphere a display screen isn’t that advanced, however Koloko did but extra. At instances he even switched out onto the perimeter, swiveling his hips, preserving his arms prime, and shadowing dribble strikes to stay the ball out of the paint. That’s all bonus — the Raptors have a number of bigs who can transfer onto the perimeter. That Koloko can do this is great however no longer an important. The simple stuff, no longer the arduous, is what issues. And in that regard, Koloko provides one thing new. Starting along the mainstays, he appeared eminently playable. The Rockets attempted to select on him. He was once unpickonable, in a number of scenarios.
That doesn’t imply Koloko is assured to give a contribution this season. In reality, to be expecting him to apply in the footsteps of different developmental outliers like Siakam or Achiuwa is folly. And Koloko has a deck stacked towards him. The Raptors get started small, and with VanVleet and Siakam the stars, Anunoby an important on each ends, Scottie Barnes the long term, and Gary Trent jr. a knockdown shooter in a freelance 12 months, there’s no wiggle room in the beginning crew. So there is going a number of mins that would come with a large.
Then down the intensity chart the Raptors have more and more bigs who call for time. Achiuwa is a shooter, one in all the workforce’s highest finishers on the transfer, a demon in transition, can create for himself, and — oh yeah — is possibly the workforce’s maximum impactful defender. He must play, as a lot for Toronto’s good fortune in the provide as its ceiling in the long term. Chris Boucher is an outstanding defender, rebounder, cutter, and finisher. And he simply wins his mins, constantly, regardless of the scenario. Khem Birch appears revitalized this preseason, and when wholesome he was once at all times going to be a good and impactful participant. Now he appears wholesome. Thad Young may also be efficient as a middle, possibly, as can any of Anunoby, Siakam, or Barnes in transition teams that need to run and gun.
Those are 3 veteran bigs who assist the workforce win, in addition to a number of small-ball choices. There are numerous mouths to feed at the giant and ahead spots in Toronto.
Where does that depart Koloko? For now, most probably on the bench to start out the 12 months and with the Raptors 905 every now and then when their season begins. He can block as many photographs as he needs sooner than the video games subject, however he’s no longer unseating Toronto’s incumbent bigs right through preseason. He nonetheless might get a shot in the future, when harm or different such unsatisfied cases press gang him into the lineup. That at all times occurs in the future right through a season.
Perhaps at that time he merely provides the Raptors an excessive amount of to stay him off the ground. The workforce simply doesn’t have any other participant like him. And they struggled and not using a conventional heart final season — in rim defense, in completing at the rim, in developing photographs in the paint. So a lot of Toronto’s struggles might be pinned on a loss of actual dimension. Koloko has that, and he’s sleek besides.
Those are numerous ifs, in fact. Koloko is a rookie, and he may also be anticipated to make rookie errors. Opponents will most probably bait him into fouls when he switches into area, and groups will pressure him into area on offense and ask him to shoot. His transition to NBA basketball will undoubtedly contain extra bumps and bruises than did his transition into NBA preseason basketball.
But sooner or later the workforce will need Koloko or no less than any other participant like him. Whether that will get him on the court docket this season or no longer, it received’t alternate the incontrovertible fact that Toronto has weaknesses. And it’s an increasing number of transparent that Koloko in many ways addresses them, no less than theoretically. The Raptors could have misplaced to the Rockets, however the win of knowing Koloko’s worth a ways outweighs a preseason outcome.