There has been a minor undercurrent to this past 10 months of basketball. Only a whisper. A hum so faint only the most obsessed NBA nerds will be able to pick up on it. One would have to be crazy to recognize the signs. Or Canadian. Toronto Raptors stud Chris Boucher and fellow Canadians in the NBA have proven their value this season.
Ever since Jamal Murray went supernova in last year’s playoffs, the Canadian citizens of the NBA have been on a steady uptick. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander rises to All-Star level, Boucher becomes a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, R.J. Barrett becomes the second option on the first Knicks team to make the playoffs since 2013, and on and on it goes.
Clearly, NBA talent has joined lumber, maple, and raw mineral oil as one of Canada’s top exports. It’s time to take note of some of the best the north has to offer. How do they compare to their league rivals? How do they project as up-and-comers? And how will they fair for the rest of this wild 2020-21 season.
Here are 4 spicy takes for some of the NBA’s best Northerners.
4 takes about Toronto Raptors star Chris Boucher and Canadians in the NBA
No. 1: Chris Boucher is has outgrown Sixth Man of the Year
He’s starting, and who knows what took so long. Bringing the conversation back to the homefront, Boucher has been the best centre for the Raptors all year. Period.
In comparison to former starter Aron Baynes, Boucher is putting up 13.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks to Baynes’ 5.8, 5.0, and 0.4. Still, the biggest difference-maker between the two has been efficiency. Baynes at 42% from the field and 23% from three compared to Boucher’s 52 and 40 percentages.
So why has it taken Boucher this long to nab Baynes’ job in the starting five? It’s not like this has been a sudden upsurge for the Montreal native. If anything, his numbers have taken a dip lately. So why only now are the Raptors entrusting him to start games?
The easy answer is the size. Boucher, despite being the super basketball player, is listed at 6’9 and 200 lbs.
Chris Boucher has been improving every season
Boucher’s shot-blocking and offensive versatility can bring the Raptors a lot on the court, he’s simply too small to wrestle the NBA other top five-men. Joel Embiid would manhandle Boucher, and it doesn’t matter how disappointing Baynes has been this season, his 6’10, 260-pound frame will give Gobert, Jokic, Towns, and Embiid more to tangle with.
And yet, Boucher has been too good to keep on the bench. Head coach Nick Nurse has been able to stick defensive demon OG Anunoby on those bigger bigs, allowing Boucher to play defensive safety and run around the half-court like the octopus he is.
The numbers are cool, the dunks are nice, but Boucher has finally figured out how be a smart defensive player. He’s being used correctly. Only the true NBA nerds will notice or care, but I do, and I know you do too.