Can Christian Koloko improve his finishing around the basket?

Amit Mann and Asad Alvi discuss goals and areas of growth for Christian Koloko ahead of the 2023-24 Raptors season. Listen to the full episode on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed or watch on our YouTube.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: And last person, Christian Koloko. Your questions and hopes for him, who I would imagine is probably trying to solidify himself as the backup-- backup center, which I think he should be able to.

ASAD ALVI: Yeah. So I really like Christian Koloko. He actually had a really good rookie year, all things considered.

AMIT MANN: I agree.

ASAD ALVI: I'm not going to-- I'm not going to harp too much on-- I think he's still a varied young and developing player. We haven't seen enough of him to really know significantly what his negatives are or anything. I think he's very malleable at this point.

Things I really like from Christian Koloko. He was very active defensively. Defensively, even though he didn't have much weight on him in his rookie year, he had an impact on the defensive end for the Raptors. Every single time he stepped on the floor, he was literally every single defensive lineup with Christian Koloko was one of the best Raptor lineups to season. So he 1,000% should be a backup center this season, if he's able to improve.

I could see him being a 15 minute backup for Jakob Poeltl, where you're basically always running a lineup where either Poeltl's at the five, or Koloko's at the five, and then you have your four or five minutes of small ball here and there. One of the areas of improvement that I want to see from him, one thing I think, not really an area improvement, but just I want to see more of, is he was very good. He made some smart reads.

Yeah, he didn't have to make too many of them, but he made some smart reads on the short roll this season. I posted a video earlier in the summer on him. I do plan on doing something for him for our Substack at, which you guys should check out and subscribe. We got some great work there coming for preseason, just waiting for the team to kind of solidify, obviously.

But with Christian Koloko, one of the big things was, he makes-- he's made some pretty good reads out of the short roll. I think he has the vision for passing and the quick decision making needed to be useful there and be usable as a hub. Because he's able to make those reads to be able to see where the lanes are, and he's going to improve over time. So I'd like to see more of that.

And I think the ball is going to be in the bigs' hands more with Darko-- Darko's system anyway. So I'll be looking forward to that.

And then the final thing, and this is kind of like the one piece I've been looking on Christian Koloko, is kind of how his bulking up helps him. So in his rookie season, he took 109 shots inside 5-feet and 16 of those were blocked. So that's like about 15% of his shots inside 5-feet being blocked.

For comparison, Jakob Poeltl currently I think is like at, like, maybe 4% or 5% of his shots inside 5-feet are blocked. So I looked at Jakob Poeltl's rookie numbers when he was also a lot lankier, a lot skinnier, and getting pushed around a lot, and he was at 11% of his shots getting blocked inside 5-feet. And then the following season as he bulked up, it dropped to 7%, and so on and so forth.

So Koloko was, I think, 56% inside 5-feet. If you get blocked a little bit less, maybe some of those blocks are fouls, to be fair, and he gets a-- starts getting a better whistle as he gets stronger and they start looking more like fouls. But as he gets stronger and he gets blocked less inside of the 5-feet, that can really, really improve his efficiencies as a finisher at the basket. And the better he can get at being a finisher at the basket, the more valuable he becomes in that role.

I think defensively, he's going to be good always as a role player. He's just a solid defensive role player. For him to become, like, potentially a 20-minute player at the center spot in the league or become like a solid defensive role player big, he just needs to improve on the finishing aspect of it.

I think that there are some flashes of him being able to play make out of the high post, make some good reads on the short roll. But if he can improve his finishing, improve his strength, that's probably the biggest thing I want to see from him this season, and those are the questions I have for him.

But I'm really high on him. I think he's really good. And I think he's just going to be a solid role player. Every time he came out with the Raptors, if he had made a mistake in previous games, you saw him correct those mistakes as he kept going on. And during the back end of the season, he really improved when he came back from the G League. So I'm hoping for a good showing from Christian in his second season.

AMIT MANN: Yeah, and the players like him too. They appreciate his work ethic. I mean, that-- there's no bigger compliment you can get as a player, as a young player, if your teammates, who are veterans, and they're saying that he works, he's working hard. And so he's got that figured out. It's similar stuff for me.

Like, the playmaking, I think-- I talked to him about this too, that he was a more of a playmaking big when he was with Arizona. He had mentioned that. So he does have a bit of that vision and that could be something, a North Star for him, if he can keep on developing that. But in the short role, yes, he can, like, make that kick out pass.

And offensively, yeah, it's like, is he able to just be a better solid finisher? It's strength-related, obviously. It's just having his counters ready. His floater, he likes to use that. Sometimes he's hanging around the dunker spot and there's a little kick pass and he's able to hit that little floater, that would be great for him.

But just having, like, your-- I'm sure he's repping all this stuff out, like, as we speak. But it's like, when he gets that ball on the short roll, it's like, just one power dribble, counter, counter, and make your move, and go up strong. He just has to make it, like, that muscle memory just natural for him, and I think he can. And he can learn so much from Jakob Poeltl this upcoming season.

Like, the parallels, as you just mentioned, like, they're there, especially now that you're going to see Jakob Poeltl as a playmaking big. Just pick his brain, learn what you can. And I'm not saying he's not going to do that, I'm sure he will, but it's a great opportunity for him to, especially under Darko, to get more of those reps offensively because I think he will have, as you said, a solidified backup role with the Raptors.

And he should have a decent point guard with them too. If it is Dennis Schroder or whatever, that it's going to be an offense that is really humming. It's going to be quick and fast. And he's a smart kid too. So I think he'll develop quickly.

ASAD ALVI: Yeah. There we go.

AMIT MANN: There we go, everyone. Those are your four players that we're going to talk about.