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Player Preview: Is this the year Chris Boucher finds consistency?

The lanky forward has flashed equal displays of brilliance and confusion.

Washington Wizards v Toronto Raptors Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

Chris Boucher is incredibly fun to root for. Has an incredible backstory, a journey that takes him from Saint Lucia to Montreal, from poverty to discovering hoops in his late teens, from knee injury to an NBA champion to a multimillion dollar contract with the Toronto Raptors. He’s covers the court in long, graceful strides and he’s full of energy, tossing in threes with that catapult-like shot and flashing his signature play — blocking opponents’ three-pointers.

Through it all he has steadily improved, on both sides of the floor. in 2019 he was a project; in 2020 he was a play-him-in-spurts bench energy guy; in 2021 he was a top seven rotation player.

One last thing now remains: Delivering consistent play, on both ends of the floor, from game-to-game.

It’s one of the hardest things for a player to do. We saw Norman Powell struggle with it for years. It took Fred VanVleet a couple of season too. Heck, it took the greatest Raptor of All Time, Kyle Lowry, almost seven years and three teams before you could call him reliable.

And consistency isn’t just a matter of shots dropping; that’s going to fluctuate, especially for a big who plays on the perimeter like Boucher. Overall, we know he can shoot — he converted on 38% of his three-pointers last year, on almost four attempts per game.

It’s more about finding his spots at the right time. Making the right cuts, relocating, knowing when to dive and when to pop out — and developing that chemistry with his point guards. Finding ways to score on the nights when the shot isn’t dropping.

For Boucher, that might mean expanding his offensive game a little bit. Boucher isn’t going to be a top option on offense; Nick Nurse is not going to turn to him as a shot creator or playmaker. But the Raptors, as we have seen, struggle in the half court. What can Boucher do to alleviate that? Well, navigating the screener side of the PnR will help. But a post move or two, a baby hook or a drop step/up-and-under move, might serve him well. We saw Scottie Barnes unleash a couple of post moves on Wednesday’s season debut; does Boucher have something similar up his sleeve?

Or perhaps most practical: How would a consistent midrange jumper fit his game? I know, midrange bad, threes and layups good. But the midrange matters. One of the biggest elements missing from last season’s Raptors compared to the previous year, was Serge Ibaka’s midrange jumper. It was deadly. In pick-and-roll situations, Ibaka could pop all the out to the three-point line, he could roll to the rim, or he could take one step laterally and drain that J. It kept defenses guessing. With Chris, it’s either three or dunk. A midrange option could really help him, and the team.

Inconsistency rears its head on the other end of the floor, too. Chris is a highlight-reel shot-blocker. It’s one of his greatest assets. But it’s also a weakness — his propensity to go for the swat often takes him out of position defensively, or leaves him out of rebounding position. (Or both, I guess.) Knowing when to go for the block and when to play solid positional D is something Chris is still working on. He’s also working on verticality; he likes to go for the big swat, but swinging your arm like that can lead to extra foul calls.

Outside of shot blocking, again Boucher again has an even good/bad ratio. Sometimes he moves his feet quickly, and stays with smaller and faster players. Other times he's caught standing still.

The good/bad teeter-totter needs to shifting in favour of the good side. Given the that Boucher has gotten better every year, and given what he’s gone through to get where he is, I have to believe he can get his game to that level.