I know, deep in the heart of Toronto Raptors fans, there's a void. As the venerable, lovable Amir Johnson sets sail for greener pastures, we collectively stand in front of the jersey rack at RealSports and wonder, "who will be our favourite Raptor now?"
Fear not, loving fans. There's plenty of evidence to suggest that Bismack Biyombo is about to become your new favourite dude. Formerly of the Charlotte Hornets, Biyombo was signed to a two-year, $6 million contract early in free agency. We know a few things about him at surface level. Yes, he's a 6'9" workhorse with arms that stretch to Halifax. He's a defensive stalwart. His name is tremendously fun to say at parties.
But why is he your new favourite Raptor? What will he give us this season that warms our cold hearts? I will explain.
As opposed to the man he's replacing in the rotation, Tyler Hansbrough, Bismack Biyombo is a threat to block shots on any given night. Last year, he averaged 4.1 blocks per 100 possessions, good for fifth in the league for players playing 1,000 minutes or more.
Swats are his specialty, as pointed out in this video collecting all his blocks from two seasons ago.
Beyond the highlight reel, though, Biyombo will help the Raptors on defence in more subtle ways.
In the new system where the Raptors will ICE the pick and roll, Biyombo is a perfect fit to play anchor. He's able to sit comfortably back in the paint area, having the agility to both challenge a shot or backpedal for a block at the rim. Here's an example of the latter from the preseason game against the Clippers:
This system is obviously an adjustment to benefit Jonas Valanciunas, but Biyombo will probably be even more comfortable executing it.
He's also a benefit to his teammates in another way, because he can clean up when the Raptors guards gamble in the backcourt. Steals were a huge part of Toronto's success in 2013-14, but slow-footed Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams stunted the team's growth on that front last season. Biyombo is a fantastic safety net to free up Kyle Lowry, DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph for steal opportunities.
Biyombo is a work in progress on the other end, as his shot chart from last season shows us.
Again, though, he's willing to work hard. His offensive rebound has gone up every year he's been in the league. Last year, it took a jump from 5.1 per 100 possessions to 6.6. He's a good finisher from that distance as well, making 60.4% of shots five feet and in last season.
It's nothing glamorous, but having that blue collar presence on the Raptors interior should bolster their efforts. With plenty of guard penetration, attention will be off Biyombo and will afford him opportunities to score.
Ultimately, it's the hard work aspect that should endear Raptors fans to Biyombo on both ends of the court. He plays bigger than his 6'9" frame and has a motor that will help win interior battles. If you're a fan of hard work and looking for a bench guy to latch on to, I give him my full recommendation.
What are your expectations for Biyombo this season?
Stats via NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.