It hasn't taken very long for Khem Birch to make his mark on the Toronto Raptors.
Three games into a stint with the team he grew up watching, Birch has already registered two double-digit scoring performances, something he did just four times through his first 48 games with the Orlando Magic this season.
To take things a step further, Birch tied his scoring career-high just four days after the ink dried on his contract with Toronto. In a solid win over the San Antonio Spurs, Birch finished with 14 points (on 6-for-9 shooting) to go along with six rebounds and two blocks as he saw 29 minutes of playing time in a starting role.
Keeping Up With The Canadians 🇨🇦- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) April 15, 2021
Khem Birch | vs. San Antonio
2 BLOCKS#WeTheNorth | @Raptors pic.twitter.com/R10tbZfRQj
Birch's solid start with Toronto could be accurately summed up in three words: active, efficient and effective.
Just as Toronto needed a player like Birch to bolster its frontcourt rotation, Birch needed a situation like the one the Raptors presented to unlock what he is capable of becoming. It's a fact he made sure to emphasize following his career-high-tying scoring performance against San Antonio on Wednesday.
"I feel like playing with this team, I'm kinda getting out of the box," Birch told reporters. "I was in a box in Orlando - not to be disrespectful, it's just when I came over there, I was really raw, so I guess that's what they expected me to be but I work on my game a lot."
Offensively, Birch has looked polished on many fronts, specifically in pick-and-roll situations, where he has already had a few impressive finishes as the roll man. After scoring his first points as a Raptor on a pick-and-roll with Kyle Lowry, Birch has already scored while rolling off of screens set for OG Anunoby, Malachi Flynn and Pascal Siakam.
'Where I wanna be' pic.twitter.com/ZKPl6dNNiM- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 12, 2021
In Toronto's win over San Antonio, the 28-year-old showed off his float game, connecting on an eight-foot floater in the third quarter and a six-footer in the fourth, both set up by the playmaking of Flynn.
According to Birch, he's just scratching the surface of what he can do with this team: "(During the shut down), I was in the gym a lot and I always knew I could do a lot and I don't even think I'm at my full ceiling right now.
"I think I can do more," he continued. "I don't have as much confidence as I'm supposed to right now but I'm gradually getting there."
In watching Birch with his new team, you wouldn't think that he lacked confidence. In just his second game with the team, the four-year veteran calmly knocked down the fifth 3-pointer of his NBA career, something that he is empowered to do within Toronto's free-flowing offence.
Despite not yet having an actual practice session with the team, Birch hasn't truly looked out of place on the floor, something he attributed to his pre-existing familiarity with Nick Nurse from his time with the Canadian National Team.
"I'm kinda lucky because I played Team Canada with Coach Nurse like two years ago," Birch said. "It's basically like the same concepts and also it's like a common-sense defence and freedom on offence. As long as you play good defence, you get to do kinda whatever you want on offence. So, as long as you play hard and use common sense, I think that kinda translates."
As evidenced by his activity on both ends of the floor thus far, there won't ever be a question of whether or not Birch will play hard. Effort alone should result in plenty of buckets as you can count on Birch to crash the offensive glass and run the floor, something that will get rewarded by eager playmaking guards in Flynn, Lowry and Fred VanVleet, who is sure to quickly develop chemistry once he shares the floor with Toronto's newest big man.
On top of the effort plays, an increasingly confident Birch has the potential to become a legitimate roll threat and in due time, could even become the player the Raptors use to drag out opposing rim protectors as a somewhat capable shooter.
Before I get too ahead of myself by insinuating Birch could become a stretch five, it's worth pointing out that the contract he signed on April 10 was for the remainder of the 2020-21 NBA season. With unrestricted free agency looming, Birch's glowing words about his situation with the Raptors are worth putting stock into.
They could go a long way into a potential offseason decision of committing to this franchise's future.
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