Maybe take back what I said after the Raptors’ signing news on Wednesday. The rumour today is that the Orlando Magic are going to waive their centre Khem Birch — and the Raptors are apparently in the lead to sign him to their roster. Once again, we turn to the scoopmeister, Shams Charania of the Athletic, with help from Josh Robbins, to set the scene:
The Orlando Magic are planning to waive center Khem Birch in order to give him an opportunity to play more, with the Toronto Raptors as his likely landing spot, sources tell me and @JoshuaBRobbins. Birch is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 8, 2021
As a Canadian, Birch has long been on the radar of Raptors fans. The 28-year-old native of Montreal has spent the last four years with the Orlando Magic, largely in a reserve role. Listed at 6’9” and 233 pounds, Birch is a mobile big man, known for his play and presence around the rim. (This can also be construed as code for: he’s a big man who doesn’t have much shooting range.) Right now, Birch’s numbers don’t exactly jump off the page — 5.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game — but he’s shown his use over the years as a versatile frontcourt player. And at this point, one thing is clear: the Raptors need all the help they can get in that department.
There’s also a nice bit of synergy here with regards to Team Canada, on which Birch has been a mainstay over the last few years. Since 2019, Raptors coach Nick Nurse has been the head coach of the national team, which aligns a few interests, if only in the short term. In all, assuming the pieces fall into place and he clears waivers, Birch would very much be worth a look from the Raptors and should be given a chance to at least play out the season as another big man off the bench — who could start too, if need be.
Will this change the fortunes of the Raptors in the short term? Maybe, maybe not. The team is still 20-31 and seems half-committed (though subtly so) to the idea of losing games to squeeze into perhaps the top-5 pick range of the 2021 NBA Draft. If nothing else, it gives the Raptors the opportunity to play two Montrealers in their frontcourt at the same time (Birch and Boucher). And could give them a different look when Aron Baynes is struggling — not an uncommon sight.
Let’s see what happens next with the Raptors and Birch.