Christian Koloko adds needed rim protection to Raptors

With their lone pick in the 2022 NBA draft, the Toronto Raptors tied University of Arizona junior center Christian Koloko 33rd overall.

An accomplished, shot-blocking rim guard with quick feet that should allow him to transition across the entire floor, he appears to be the defensive center Toronto needs in their secondary and tertiary lineups.

Here’s a bit more about Koloko:

Age: 22
School: Arizona
Position: center
Height: seven-foot-one | Weight: 230 pounds
Statistics 2021-22: PPG: 12.6 | Roleplay: 7.3 | APG: 1.4 | BPG: 2.8 | FW%: 63.5

An all-around defender

The first thing you should notice about Koloko is its size. He is seven feet with a wingspan of 7ft 4 and was one of the top rim guards in college basketball last season, averaging 2.8 blocks per game on his way to Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

The Raptors’ need for rim protection in front of the Five has been talked about ad nauseam in almost every corner of the team’s fandom, and Koloko should be comfortably taking care of it.

He’s got the length, natural timing, and the kind of quick jumping skills that should allow him to be both a strong and weak shot blocker.

Even more exciting than his ability to deflect shots, however, is how fast Koloko is. He’s got the kind of stride and lateral quickness that makes him transition easily, meaning he should be a valuable, malleable piece for head coach Nick Nurse to use defensively.

Nurse and his staff love playing an equal amount of switch and zone schemes, and between Koloko’s fast feet that should allow him to play the pick and roll in man-to-man coverage without much trouble , and his ability to anchor a defense and anchor goalie in a zone play around the perimeter, he should be able to seamlessly blend into the defensive side of the ball.

An instant contributor

One of the knocks against Koloko is that he’s already 22 years old, which suggests there might not be that much trajectory for development to squeeze out of him. He came to basketball later in life though, so there may still be some development time there.

Regardless, Koloko seems like someone who can jump right in and make a contribution for the Raptors, partly because he fills a clear need for the team at the backup center and partly because this isn’t someone the Raptors don’t have any familiarity with.

Shortly after Toronto made his selection, Nurse opened up about Koloko’s selection and mentioned the fact that the Raptors have had their eye on the young man for some time, giving him familiarity and comfort to already begin appealing to his next role to start season.

The Raptors have had their eye on Koloko since first spotting him at a Basketball Without Borders camp in 2017.

“I’ve seen quite a bit of him. I’ve seen him play quite a lot,” Nurse said. “It’s always difficult to say. I hope so. I think there’s probably a chance for him to dig into it and get some time.”

Has some interesting similarities with Siakam

As a cool coincidence, Koloko comes from the same hometown as Pascal Siakam: Douala, Cameroon.

Koloko doesn’t have quite the same backstory as Siakam, having been a better known high school recruit and eventually going to a power conference school in Arizona, but there could be a common history between the two as offensive plays could develop.

For now, Koloko figures he’ll pose a rim-running lob threat out of the pick-and-roll without much of a chance of popping out at the three-point line. In three seasons and 91 college games, he was 0-for-5 from long range.

It was a similar story with Siakam, who played 3-for-17 in 68 collegiate games over two seasons at New Mexico State, where he was primarily used as a traditional big man rather than the multi-faceted All-NBA wing he has blossomed into since.

That’s not to say Koloko will become a player with Siakam’s versatile skills at a high level, but given that he shot 73.5 percent from the free-throw line last season, he can certainly get more shot than that only five measly attempts from three-point range in college.

“When the guys are really low free-throw shooters you worry that you have to take some time off, but I would imagine we’re going to try to push him out of there and I’ll bet you he’s doing more than zero on his Career here,” Nurse said when asked about concerns about his stroke. Christian Koloko adds needed rim protection to Raptors

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