Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors Chris Boucher has earned the chance to prove he belongs in the team's rotation

When the Toronto Raptors lost out on their frontcourt rotation of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, they didn't take very long to try and fill those voids.

Shortly after the Gasol and Ibaka signings were reported, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported the Raptors' signing of big man Aron Baynes. Just minutes later, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Chris Boucher agreed to a two-year, $13.5 million deal to stay in Toronto.

While the Baynes-Boucher tandem isn't Gasol and Ibaka, they're both serviceable in the roles they'll play. NBA.com's Scott Rafferty detailed what Baynes brings to the Raptors as the likely starting centre, but I see the Boucher deal as a sign of respect and a nod to his hard work as he climbed his way up the ranks in Toronto's organization.

A torn ACL put the Montreal, Quebec native behind the 8-ball to start his NBA career, going undrafted in 2017. After a year with the Golden State Warriors on a two-way contract, he was released, only to be picked up by his homeland team.

He made the most of his two-way deal with the Raptors, tearing up the G League en route to MVP and Defensive Player of the Year with jaw-dropping averages of 27.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game. He made sparing appearances for the NBA club that season, mostly at the end of games during blowouts, but his effort combined with his production for Raptors 905 was enough to earn his first full-time gig in the NBA.

The Raptors signed Boucher to a one-year deal last season where he'd serve as a backup to Gasol and Ibaka, averaging 6.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks over 13.2 minutes per game. Head coach Nick Nurse often went to the wiry and energetic centre when his team needed that burst of liveliness on either end of the floor or on the glass.

Boucher appeared in 62 regular season contests, but playing time was never consistent in a rotation that also included Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson eating up frontcourt mintues. In fact, there was only one instance during the entire portion of the pre-bubble regular season where Boucher played consecutive games of 20-plus minutes.

It's hard to get into any sort of offensive rhythm when mintues are that unpredictable, and often times you'd see Boucher come off the bench firing away from 3-point land to try and provide a scoring spark. When it comes to defence and rebounding, he's always going to give you 110% effort, but even then, it's hard to make an impact in the short stints he saw.

To give you an idea of what he could be capable of with steady playing time, Boucher notched a double-double with points and rebounds in four of the 11 games he played more than 20 minutes this past season. He gathered five or more rebounds and scored in double figures in all but one of those contests. He recorded at least one block in nine of those 11 games and had multiple blocks in six.

The best game of his early NBA career came in the bubble when Toronto beat the Milwaukee Bucks in the seeding games. In a season-high 30 minutes, Boucher notched a career-best 25 points to go with 11 rebounds, two blocks, two assists and two steals while shooting 60% from the field.

The game may have had no playoff implications with a lot of usual rotation players (including Giannis Antetokounmpo) resting, but nonetheless, Boucher made the most of his opportunity in trying to prove to the Raptors he deserves another look.

With a log-jammed frontcourt in each of his first two seasons with Toronto, Boucher never truly had the opportunity to showcase how effective he can be. That's where this contract, under these circumstances, proves that Nurse and the organization believe in Boucher as a reserve centre who can thrive in a slightly bigger role.

As aforementioned, Toronto likely signed Baynes to become the team's starting centre. But aside from Boucher, the only other deal they've made to shore up their frontcourt is signing centre Alex Len to a one-year deal.

MORE: Fast facts on Alex Len

Boucher will still have to grind to earn consistent minutes and may have to battle with Len to cement his spot in Nurse's rotation, but everything from the Canadian's past history in the league shows that he'll have no problem working hard to earn a spot.

Boucher's energy and effort has gotten him his second full-time NBA contract. Now, he'll have an opportunity to prove he belongs in an NBA rotation.

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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