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How Raptors Two-Way Player Chris Boucher Has Excelled In The G League

Dakota Schmidt writes about how Raptors two-way player Chris Boucher has excelled in the G League

NCAA Basketball: Colorado at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most disappointing parts of the 2017-18 G League season was the lack of presence from 6’10 center Chris Boucher. Despite being on a two-way deal with the Golden State Warriors, he spent a good part of the year on the sidelines due to recovering from a torn ACL injury that he suffered during his senior season at the University of Oregon. After finally returning from that injury on January 17th, Boucher was pretty good as he averaged 11.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on 47% from the field and 22% from beyond the arc in 22 minutes per game for Santa Cruz.

While those numbers are obviously not extraordinary, they’re solid for a 6’10 player that was just recovering from a major knee injury. Although he struggled as a perimeter shooter, Boucher was able to shine offensively due to utilizing his mobility as either an on or off-ball threat.

Despite impressing in limited G League play, the Golden State Warriors still decided to waive Boucher after the end of the conclusion of their title-winning 2017-18 season on June 22nd. Fortunately, the 6’10 center didn’t have to wait long to figure out his immediate NBA future as the Toronto Raptors signed him to a training camp deal which included an Exhibit 10 clause on July 20th.

That Exhibit 10 was significant as it gave him the opportunity to compete in training camp for that two-way deal. Once the seasons changed from summer to fall, the 6’10 center showed that he didn’t take that opportunity for granted. While he struggled in preseason play, as he maintained a lackluster 41% True Shooting Percentage in 21 total minutes, Boucher impressed the Raptors enough that the team transitioned that Exhibit 10 to a two-way deal on October 12th.

While that two-way deal gives Boucher the opportunity to spend up to 45 days at the NBA level with Toronto, there’s a chance that won’t happen in that situation. That situation is due to the combination of the big league club’s stacked front-court rotation and the 6’10 center still needing time to grow as a player. This predicament ultimately meant that Boucher would be remaining in the G League, this time as a member of the Raptors 905.

Leading into the season, there was definitely some optimism on my end regarding how well he’d perform after a full summer where he can actually train and improve his game. However, the Canadian center has exceeded any types of expectations during the first few weeks of the G League season. During his first six games with the Raptors 905, he’s averaged 27.8 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.5 steals and 4.3 blocks per game on 50% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc on 7.5 attempts per game. Those numbers has allowed him to maintain a tremendous 63% True Shooting Percentage.

Boucher’s tremendous production on the offensive end has come through his ability as an on-ball driver, perimeter shooter and in transition. Among those three traits, his three-point shooting stroke has definitely been the most notable due to how he’s improved in that area since last year where he shot just 22% from beyond the arc. As his improved three-point shooting percentage might tell you, Boucher seems more comfortable from beyond the arc as the 6’10 center is a reliable catch-and-shoot target whether working on the top of the key or on the corners.

That significantly improved perimeter shooting is a significant factor behind Boucher being a more dangerous offensive weapon with the 905 than he was with Santa Cruz. Now that the opposition has to actually fear Boucher’s jumper, they have to tightly guard him on the perimeter to make sure he doesn’t get an open look.

With that change, he can use his quick first step to work around the perimeter defender. Once that happens, he can either decide to finish with a rim-rocking slam or an impressive layup. Even when there’s a defender waiting for him, he still does a great job of scoring around contact due to his athleticism and being able to use all of his 7’4 wingspan to put a shot up over the head of the defender. Several examples of his ability to score around contact is video below.

Boucher has also been a dominating force on the defensive end, as he’s currently averaging a league-high 4.3 blocks per game. While that incredible average is somewhat an example of small sample size, Boucher’s excellence on the defensive end has been evident this year as he can get those blocks in a variety of ways: working as a helpside defender, closeouts, chase-downs or just simply staying with on-ball drivers from perimeter to paint.

The Raptors two-way player improving on that last trait would really increase his chances of getting a role with the Raptors or any other NBA team. Because in modern day hoops that’s so reliant on spacing and ball movement, having a player with the frame of Boucher being able to defend on the perimeter would be a boon for that particular NBA team.

Although he currently stands as arguably the best G Leaguer during the early stages of the 2018-19 season, the 25-year-old player still has some weakness that he’ll have to refine. For one, the 200-pound big needs to getting a little stronger as he regularly gets outmuscled when he’s defending in the low-post.

In addition to that, Boucher still needs more time to familiarize himself with how to defend within a team environment at the pro level as there are occasions where he just gets lost. Of course, that flaw will be mended by just getting more experience as he’s just played a total of 645 minutes at the pro level (NBA and G League).

Despite his inexperience getting the better of him at sometimes, Chris Boucher still stands as one of the more entertaining players to watch in the G League. Over the course of any game, there’s a tremendous chance that you’ll see him have an impressive chase-down block, catch fire from 3 or gilde his way down the court in transition before finishing with a rim-rocking alley-oop slam.