Christian Koloko, another stroke of genius from Masai Ujiri

Masai Ujiri is proof that ability can avoid the reality of development in a market that attracts less than Los Angeles or New York. Since arriving in Toronto in 2013, the Nigerian has produced an amazing mix of bold trades – the Kawhi Leonard brought the franchise its first title in history – and victories in the Draft, whether through undrafted players such as Fred VanVleetend of 1st round as Pascal Siakam or lottery picks like Scottie Barnes. Almost every season, the Raptors get it right thanks to the eye of their scouting team and the knowledge of Ujiri. The latest great search is called Christian Fool.

Toronto has only played 10 matches this season, but we can already see that the Cameroonian who was drafted in June has completely blended into the team. Nick Nurse played him in every match and gave him 5 more starts. Selected 33rd overall in relative anonymity out of Arizona University, the 22-year-old interior turned in an impressive performance against the Bulls last night.

With 11 points, 7 rebounds and above all 6 blocks (NBA records for him in all three sectors) – including 3 in two minutes on Patrick Williams – Koloko highlighted statistically the enormous impact that has already been seen us in his first appearances. In the absence of Siakam, who was sidelined for 15 days, the rookie played 30 minutes and was able to develop the tremendous defensive qualities and energy that prompted Ujiri to bet on him.

11 PTS (career-high) -7 REB (career-high) -6 BLK (career-high) -5th NBA start, 10th NBA game

The interested party may be 2.13 m tall, he moves with great fluidity and speed, while having explosiveness and flair that allows him to be a good defender of the circle. His stats are currently insane defensively, with opponents shooting 56.3% from close to the circle when he’s the primary defender, making him one of the top 25 players in the league at this register, and the Raptors have 13.5 fewer points per 100 possessions in his presence.

When Koloko is on the field, the Raptors’ numerical defensive strength is higher than the Cavs, for example, who based their early season success on defensive recitals. On the other hand, in the seasons where Koloko has been on the bench, Toronto’s defensive stats approach the Wizards.

From Cameroon to NBA through Sierra Canyon

No need to look far for flexibility at the highest level. The boy was plucked at the age of 17, when the recruiters allowed him to leave Cameroon for California, first to Birmingham High School, then to Sierra Canyon, where he rubbed shoulders with Kenyon Martin Jr or Scotty Pippen Jr and cut down his trophy cabinet. With the Wildcats in the NCAA, his first two seasons were played in a low-profile role, before also adapting and exploding last year as a junior. Christian Koloko was named Pac-12 Best Defenseman, Conference MIP, and voted to the All-Pac 12 Team.

For Nurse, having that extra edge is a godsend and an added guarantee that the Raptors can maintain their identity and style of play in almost any situation. Right now, that DNA consists of a lot of defense and the ability to consistently make the right choices while imposing an athletic and combative challenge. When they line up together, a Gary Trent Jr-OG Anunoby-Scottie Barnes-Pascal Siakam-Christian Koloko five, without a professional leader but with two playmakers capable of Siakam and Barnes, will need to rebound from good times to hope to score points. basket

Koloko is however far from being a finished product and this is also what makes it more interesting. With little playing time and opportunities in weeks, all within a workforce where there are both NBA champions (Siakam, VanVleet, Anunoby) and elements where an All-Star future seems promising (Scottie Barnes), it the ideal developmental context.

This is just the beginning for Christian Koloko and you will see that we will be talking about it again in the coming weeks.

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