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Player Preview: Brand new Boucher? How Rajakovic’s presence can boost the big-man

Could this new coaching system work out in Boucher’s benefit? It may be a big year for the big man from Montreal.

Cairns Taipans v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

The rare Canadian representative on Canada’s team, Chris Boucher, is poised for a big year; not necessarily in terms of stats or minutes or role, but personally as a player under a new regime. From the preseason alone it’s clear that new bench boss Darko Rajakovic has a refreshed vision for Boucher, one that should hopefully see him flourish with confidence after some less than ideal times under previous Raptors leadership. While he will likely see most of his minutes off of the bench, this could be the year of a brand new Boucher.

In a slight head scratcher of a move, Rajakovic started Boucher in the Raptors showdown with the Cairns Taipers early this preseason. While yes, many of the team’s bigs were unavailable, some were still surprised to see the Montreal-native slot into the starting 5 over a typically more reliable offensive presence like Thad Young. By putting Boucher in, Rajakovic made it clear that his Canadian center would be a key piece of the rotation, cementing his commitment to him despite the team’s overflow of long forwards. Safe to say, however, that when and if Boucher does start at center throughout the season, the team’s offensive plans will likely need to adjust from what they will typically run, but the good news is there is clearly a plan in place to do just that.

When asked about what he had learned about Boucher since joining the organization, Rajakovic joked that he “learned that he is skinny” before following up by commending the energy and defensive prowess the 6 ‘10 big man brings to the floor.

“He can protect the rim. He runs (on) offense, transition, really well. Now I want him to be even more aggressive on the offensive end in the sense that he makes good decisions” added Rajakovic, in what is certainly a vote of confidence you know has elevated Boucher under this new regime.

On the note of good decision making, though, that has been one element of Boucher’s game that has seemingly lacked over the course of his career. By this point, it is somewhat of a yearly tradition for him to come out and say that through watching film he has identified himself as a ‘chucker’. While it’s hard not to love his honest, slightly self-deprecating analysis of himself, the fact that the same observation is being made year after year is a red flag that it has not translated to change. Nobody would love anything more than for this to be the year that Boucher cleans up his shot selection and leaves the label of ‘chucker’ in the past, if the same self-effacing comments are made again this season, it might be time to concede that change will likely never happen long-term.

As much as Boucher’s shot selection, or lack thereof, has been a sticking point, it’s hard to not admire and appreciate the athleticism he brings to the floor, especially for a man of his size. Quick, nimble, and an excellent defender, however Boucher does see his minutes this year, he is sure to add a ton of value to his stock by playing into his strengths and the intangibles that have made him a fan-favourite throughout his tenure as a Raptor. Will he be a brand new player? Time will tell, and probably not, but he is poised to bring a brand new level of impact, and one that the Raptors have certainly needed.