Chris Boucher: Toronto’s Slim Reaper

Boucher has been brightest light in dark Raptors season.

Chris Boucher blocks shot against Chicago Bulls
Chris Boucher (right) swats away lay-up from Chicago Bulls guard Coby White.  Raptors/Twitter

Raptors faithful have managed to find a source of hope in an otherwise frustrating season.

This current Raptors season can’t be called anything other than disappointing considering the expectations fans and the team alike had for the year.

But belief in a better team has been found in a rather unlikely source, namely Chris Boucher.

The lanky centre from Montreal is sitting at 14.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game this year, up from last seasons totals of 6.6, 4.5, and 1.0 respectively.

Taking a took at advanced metrics, he’s an analytics darling. He currently sits 13th in Basketball Reference’s Player Efficiency Rating rankings, above superstars like LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

Though he’s cooled off in recent outings, his five-game stretch between Jan. 8 and Jan. 18 shouldn’t be considered an anomaly. During that period, he averaged 20.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.1 blocks per game, on a 66.4 field goal percentage and 53.2 three-point percentage. 

There’s a good reason as to why sports-book oddsmakers are name-dropping him in Sixth Man of the Year conversations. In every step of Boucher’s career, when given the minutes, he’s found a way to put up similar statistics. 

Prior to transferring to the University of Oregon, Chris Boucher played at Northwest College, a junior college in Powell, Wyoming. There, he averaged 22.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 4.7 blocks per game on 62.7 per cent from the field and 44.4 per cent from three-point range.

After going undrafted in 2017, he spent a couple years developing on the Toronto Raptors G-League affiliate, the 905. There, he was named the G-League MVP as well as the Defensive Player of the Year.

So far this season, he’s seen an increase in minutes, growing from 13.2 minutes per game in 2019/2020 to 23.2 this season. So other than an increase in opportunities for the 28 year old, what improvements has Boucher made that contribute to his massive statistical jump?

“I think the biggest thing has been positioning and discipline,” points out defensive analyst Brad Vermunt of Too Much Hoops, a YouTube channel that focuses on breaking down the Raptors on the defensive end of the court. “I think with more experience he’s figured out how to be in the right spot more often. With his length, he has the potential to bother a lot of shots in the lane if he can maintain verticality. So discipline is key.”

Mental growth is an attribute that improves over time, and of course through experience. At 28 years old, though, Boucher, would still have to be considered a late-bloomer.

Being in a forward-thinking organization that has prioritized analytics and their player development has helped his progress. But individual growth can always be traced back to just that, the individual.

“You can be on a great franchise, but if you don’t put in the work to learn and develop your game and Basketball IQ, you’ll stagnate and never make that jump up in the rotation” Vermunt says.

He attributes Boucher’s season to his dedication and work ethic.

Nick Nurse has been touted as a premier defensive head coach, and has been known to sit players that don’t give him what he needs on that end. But the strides Chris Boucher has taken, as well as his highlight reel blocking capabilities, have forced Nurse’s hand when it comes to giving him more minutes.

When the Raptors lost centre stalwarts Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka this past summer, fans were left in disarray fearing a void in that position.

Now, nearly 20 games into the season, it’s clear the Raptors are doing what they do best, allowing home-grown talent to shine.

About this article

Posted: Jan 29 2021 3:59 pm
Filed under: Basketball News Sports

About the Author

Kai Gammage
Kai Gammage is an aspiring sports journalist and independent content creator, focusing mostly on basketball and American football. Currently in his 3rd year at Centennial College.