With the 33rd pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors selected centre Christian Koloko out of the University of Arizona.
The Toronto Raptors entered the 2022 Draft looking to address a position of need, with defence and a legitimate ‘big’, the desire from the team virtually throughout the entire pre-draft process.
With Arizona’s Christian Koloko, they certainly landed a player that will give them exactly what they were looking for – providing them with some much-needed depth at a position that has been a glaring issue since both Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol left the 6ix.
Koloko stacks up at an impressive 7-foot-1, which immediately makes him the tallest player on Nick Nurse’s roster – adding a size dimension that had been regularly commented on as one of the team’s weaknesses, even as they appeared to return to pre-COVID performances last season.
Heading into this off-season, Khem Birch was the team’s only truly recognized centre while Chris Boucher often rotated into the position despite being primarily a power forward, and adding another legitimate big with some solid defence was atop the priorities list.
In Koloko, the Raptors get a player with some solid rim defence, with some good rebounding (7.3 per game) and block (2.8 per game) numbers, although they are getting a player with limited offence at present – with just 12.6 points per game averaged, while shooting exclusively within the circle.
Koloko will provide some interior offence, but will need to be worked with heavily if the team hopes to ever see him hit a three – with 0.1 three-pointer throws averaged last season.
The former Wildcat hails from the same city as new teammate Pascal Siakam, and should develop some immediate chemistry with his fellow Cameroonian, while providing the team with some solid depth from the bench – with Birch still expected to enjoy the majority of minutes.
Koloko will be a player the Toronto Raptors work to mould into the archetype they want, but he has all of the tools available to give him a genuine chance of succeeding in the NBA as a defence-first player, with the Raptors having a number of top offensive minds already.
If he can develop a stronger offensive game, it would not be a surprise to see him become the team’s preferred option at center, though with their ‘hybrid/fluid’ system under Nurse there are plenty of questions that still need answering as the team moves forward.
After landing their priority pick in the draft, the Raptors also landed one of the top remaining undrafted free agents in Ron Harper Jr., son of former Chicago Bulls player Ron Harper Sr, signing him to a two-way contract.
Harper Jr. will likely spend large portions of the next season with the 905 Raptors as he looks to stake a claim at an NBA roster spot, something that the big team could offer if their injury woes from the past two seasons rear their heads again.