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Player Preview: Chris Boucher looks to reclaim his role in a secure position

With a fresh contract in hand, Boucher has found his home — now he needs to master his role.

Philadelphia 76ers v Toronto Raptors - Game Six Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Everybody loves the steadiness and consistency of Masai Ujiri. The Toronto Raptors’ President is a smooth talker on the mic, great in trade negotiations, and only makes a big splash when needed.

The Raptors had clear expectations heading into the 2022 off season, and came out having completed those same expectations. And they were not to make a big splash. The three needs were to re-sign Thaddeus Young and Chris Boucher, and sign a solid bench piece with their Mid-Level Exception. All three goals were reached, as Young, Boucher, and Otto Porter Jr. all reached agreements on a contract.

Boucher is the definition of carving your own path. A man who was once homeless, made his way to Oregon to play for the Ducks, and then fought through the G-League, to finally find a home back in his native country, on the Toronto Raptors.

This past off-season, the Raptors and Boucher agreed on a three year deal, which will total up to $35.25 million when it’s all said and done. A deal which seemed fair for both parties.

The past two seasons should be a fairly similar outlook on the expectations for Boucher this year. He will likely come off the bench for 20-25 minutes per game, provide fantastic energy, and spend time both as the center and power forward (whatever that means in Toronto’s lineup construction).

One thing you can always count on when it comes to Boucher, is his shot blocking. I would use the term “rim protection” but that doesn’t even come close to defining Boucher’s impact as a shot blocker. Boucher’s ability to block three-point attempts seems unmatched. Seriously, look at this tweet.

Yes, that was from a couple seasons ago, but Boucher’s impact in that category remains true.

Even though Boucher’s position in the rotation is solidified, the Raptors still often use him when they are in need of some energy, rim protection and rebounding. For his slender frame, Boucher’s 110% effort in the paint helps him bang around with anyone.

Toronto essentially enters the season with four potential center options. Precious Achiuwa, Khem Birch, Chris Boucher, and a small-ball lineup, which could see a number of different players claim the role of “center.” Out of the first three options, Boucher remains the most versatile due to his shooting ability. Boucher will sometimes play alongside the other two centers, or as the biggest man on the floor.

However, in order to keep this label as a versatile player, his shooting is going to need to improve from last season in order to remain a threat from beyond the arc.

Two years ago, Boucher shot a great number at 38.3% on 3.9 attempts per game from 3-point range, and last year that number sunk to 29.7% on 2.9 attempts per game.

He got mainly the same looks off kick-outs, pick-and-pop opportunities, or because of his ability to run the floor; if Boucher isn’t rim running, he’s often stretching the floor for a transition three. It was difficult to know why Boucher’s percentage dropped so much last season.

One thing Boucher is known to do is force shots. Due to his height, and high release point, he can often get a jumper off against anyone, however, a hand in the face is still a hand in the face, and that creates difficult looks.

Another reason could simply be scouting reports. After a successful 2020-21, Boucher wasn’t surprising anyone; he is now rightfully viewed as a threat, and due to his inability to adapt to the defense adapting to him, he was still taking the same looks, just with a little bit more coverage.

As you can see based on his shot chart from last year’s regular season, Boucher does a good job at shooting from everywhere beyond the arc. Even though as mentioned previously, it was at an inefficient percentage, the ability to not be predictable is a huge plus. A lot of players will park in the corners, or at the top of the key, and they become easier to help off of. When you have a player who is willing and “comfortable” to shoot from anywhere, they become more of a threat offensively.

Now that Boucher has his contract, and his role locked down, I think we will see a lot more of a comfortable player on the court. One that won’t feel the need to rush his shots, but one who still brings full energy defensively.

If I am forced to make one bold prediction for Boucher this season, it is going to be that he will be mentioned in the sixth-man of the year conversation. I’m not saying he will be on the ballot, or win the award, but his name will be mentioned when guys like Zach Lowe and Bill Simmons hop on their podcasts to make some year-end award predictions.

Between his defensive impact, and his offensive versatility, Boucher will play a big role for Toronto — he’ll need to, if they’re to finish in a playoff position, and if they are going to make any sort of noise in the playoffs.