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Player Preview: Christian Koloko is on the cusp of clutch

The only thing standing in the way of the 7’1 centre is himself; his fouls and his health.

2023 Play-In Tournament - Chicago Bulls v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

Christian Koloko will look to be a clutch presence coming off of the bench in his second season with the Toronto Raptors. The 7 ‘1 center from Douala, Cameroon, was the 33rd selection in the 2022 draft, having joined the team at a time where he was the only big in town there may have been a few too many expectations on him as a fresh faced rookie.

Playing behind the likes of Jakob Poeltl this season will see Koloko log minutes in the high teens this year which should give him the right balance of development and responsibility to grow into the franchise Big Man the Raptors likely had in mind on his draft day.

With his limited minutes, however, it will be key for Koloko to clean up the fouls. Last season, of players logging 600 or more minutes, the Cameroonian had the second-most personal fouls per minute. Sure, Koloko was on the receiving end of a few unfriendly whistles, but that was to be expected as a rookie rim protector.

Knowing that he cannot carry over his unused fouls from game to game, the Raptors brass would certainly hope that the offseason gave Koloko some time to mature in the paint, while still being able to capitalize on the advantage his size provides him.

The next big question with Koloko is simply his health. A respiratory issue kept the sophomore center out of Summer League and has him yet to make his preseason debut, and there is the risk that his 2023-24 debut won’t come until a couple of weeks into the regular season. Not only does the missed time mark concerns on an individual basis for the player, but knowing how key of a role he will likely play in the revived bench mob, an extended absence could make new head coach Darko Rajakovic’s job in establishing a rotation significantly harder.

When Koloko does get back onto the court under the new guidance of Rajakovic though, the season could truly become a coming out party, or at the very least the launching pad for one, given the new bench boss’ history of developing bigs into solid two-way performers. The biggest knock on Koloko last season was the lack of offensive contribution so the idea of Rajakovic’s proven ability to incorporate his centers into the offense building onto Koloko’s already established defensive prowess is one that Raptors fans should be very hyped for, and should position him to be able to come up in the clutch for a team that is sure to need it this season.