The arguments for and against the Toronto Raptors starting with Chris Boucher in the center | NBA.com Canada

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Chris Boucher did it again.

On Friday, Boucher helped the Toronto Raptors recover from a 19-point deficit to defeat the Sacramento Kings with 23 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes on the bench. This is Boucher’s third 20-point game to start the season and his second double-double.

Why is this remarkable? Boucher now has as many 20-point games this season as the first three seasons of his career combined. He’s also set to break his career record in doubles-doubles in a single season of five, scheduled for 2019-20.

Boucher is now averaging 13.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 20.8 minutes in eight games. He was one of the few bright spots in what was a slow start for the Raptors, giving them the two-way play they desperately needed at center. And yet, he came off the bench in all eight of Toronto’s games, supporting Aron Baynes or Alex Len.

Should this change? Let’s take a closer look.

The case of Chris Boucher’s startup

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It’s pretty simple: Boucher has been Toronto’s most productive and consistent center.

It hasn’t been particularly close either.

Baynes has started center in eight of Toronto’s nine games, but he and the Raptors struggled in the minutes he’s been on the field. After the best season of his career, Baynes is averaging just 5.3 points on 37.8% of shots from the field and 18.8% of 3 points. The Raptors are scoring at a rate of 101.1 points per 100 possessions with him in the lineup while giving up 111.7 points per 100 possessions on the other end.

For perspective, that would rank the Raptors 29th in offensive efficiency and 22nd in defensive efficiency. We’re still working with small sample sizes here, but… yes, not great.

“He looks like (he’s having) a really good game or a real worse game,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said of Baynes. β€œWe just need a little bit in the middle, but we’ll probably keep watching this. ”

It was even more difficult with Len on the court, with the Raptors outscored by 15.0 points per 100 possessions. That number is slightly skewed by the fact that the Kings burned the Raptors in the few minutes that Len played on Friday – Len played half the number of minutes Baynes has, making him even more of a casualty the size of the samples – but he wasn’t exactly lighting it up in the minutes he got, posting averages of 2.7 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 11.0 minutes.

Boucher, on the other hand, did.

Toronto Raptors Statistics (2020-21)
Player MPG PPG RPG BPG FG% 3PT% FT%
Aron Baynes 19,3 5.3 5,7 0,0 37,8 18,8 0,0
Alex Len 11,0 2,7 1,8 0,8 55,6 60,0 50,0
Chris Boucher 20,8 13,5 6,0 2,1 57,4 40,0 71,4

At his best, Boucher gives the Raptors an inside out threat, someone who can space the ground and put pressure on the teams at the rim.

In eight games this season, Boucher has reversed 40.0 percent of his 3-point attempts. Although he’s always been a willful 3-point shooter – more than a third (40.8%) of his shooting attempts in his career have come from the perimeter – he’s never come close to converting them at such a high rate. . It probably goes without saying, but having a cross that can space the floor all the way to the 3-point line provides crucial spacing for everyone including Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam.

Baynes are a good 3-point shooter but have yet to find their rhythm this season.

Len has shown his potential as a 3-point shooter in the past, but apart from him, 3 on 3 from the perimeter in Toronto’s victory over New York on New Years Eve, he’s 0 in 2 this season.

Boucher is also the best finisher around the rim of the three. According to NBA.com, Boucher has made 22 restricted area shots this season, tying him with VanVleet for most of the team. (For perspective, Baynes and Len have combined to take 12 shots in the restricted area).

Not only did he turn out to be a solid cutter …

… Boucher was Toronto’s best offensive rebounder. He leads the Raptors with 15 offensive rebounds over the season and ranks behind just nine players in the entire league in points scored after setbacks.

Put it all together, and there’s not much – if anything – the Raptors lose offensively playing Butcher in the middle. (Coming into this season I would have said that Baynes are a better sieve and passer, as well as a more consistent 3-point shooter, but that hasn’t quite been the case to start this season).

To start, Boucher gives them more pop defensively. He leads the Raptors with 15 blocks – VanVleet is tied with Siakam and Len for second place with five, believe it or not – and he’s better equipped to defend the perimeter than Baynes and Len.

One of my favorite stats that I keep citing: Boucher blocked 12 players by 3 points last season, tying him to Anthony Davis for sixth in the league. He has up to three blocked 3s this season, linking him with De’Aaron Fox and Ben Simmons at No. 2 in the league.

With Boucher in the center, he gives the Raptors more speed, length and versatility in the frontcourt on both sides. This allowed the Raptors to post an offensive rating of 113.4 and a defensive rating of 106.8 with him on the pitch. Again, small sample, but the Raptors go from 6.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the court to beat their opponent by 6.9 points with him on the bench.

If so, why not start it?

The case against the departure of Chris Boucher

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It really comes down to three factors.

Unique size.

Boucher is listed at 6ft 9 and 200 pounds, while Baynes is listed at 6ft 10 and 260 pounds and Len is listed at 7ft 250 pounds.

Boucher being built more as a power forward than a center is not as much of an issue in today’s NBA, where it’s normal for teams to downsize, but to push him over Baynes and Len would put the Raptors at a huge disadvantage when they played some. from the best centers in the league, such as Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic or Rudy Gobert. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Anunoby take on these clashes if the Raptors decided to start Boucher in the middle, Boucher instead facing Tobias Harris, Paul Millsap or Bojan Bogdanovic.

Anunoby has kept crosses in the past – he actually did a decent job against Jokic when the Raptors were without Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka last season – but it’s still a lot to ask him to keep 7 feet on a base. more consistent.

Two, bouncing.

As I wrote ahead of that Western Conference road trip, the defensive rebound has been one of Toronto’s biggest issues so far this season, and they’ve been at their worst with Boucher. in the field.

According to NBA.com, the Raptors have captured 73.8% of the defensive rebounds available with Baynes on the court this season. They’ve been consistently better with Len on the court, grabbing 77.0% of available defensive rebounds. With Boucher, that number dropped to 65.9%, which would be the league’s worst one-mile defensive rebound rate.

Possessions like this, in which the Raptors play good defense but give up two offensive rebounds, are a killer:

Last but not least, bench production.

It has more to do with the Raptors than with Boucher. The Raptors have had one of the weaker second units to start this season, with Boucher being the only player off the bench who has been able to make a consistent impact. Norman Powell had a rough start, as did Stanley Johnson, Matt Thomas and Malachi Flynn. This has forced Nurse to change her rotation through play, to the point where Yuta Watanabe has been burned as of late.

Taking Boucher out of the equation would leave the Raptors with one less player they can count on on the bench. Additionally, Baynes and Len have a better chance of bouncing back playing alongside Lowry, VanVleet, Siakam and Anunoby than they are playing in heavy lineups that would require them to do more work on both sides. (You think so, anyway).

That alone might not be reason enough to keep Boucher on the bench, but it gives Nurse a lot to think about taking everything into account.

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