How NBA ready is Raptors' Christian Koloko?

Amit Mann and Aaron Rose look at Christian Koloko's Summer League performance and how ready he is for the NBA. Full podcast is available on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed or on our Yahoo Sports Canada YouTube channel.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: We're focusing on development. And so we pivot to summer league. Christian Koloko, who's been, I would say, pretty good, we wanted to see him do things that he was sold to do in college, and that he could be able to help the Raptors do, and be a rim protector, and all that kind of stuff. And I think, defensively at the very least, he has exceeded my expectations. How about you?

AARON ROSE: I think, defensively, he's been good. I think that, certainly, the first game, he had foul trouble. He would have fouled out had it been a normal NBA game. I think he had six fouls. And there's a 10-foul maximum or whatever limit at summer league. But he'll learn that. He'll develop.

I think what we're realizing is he's really, really thin. He's 7 feet tall, 7 foot 1", whatever it is, but really, really thin. And you can see that he has issues on the offensive side of the ball. His offense is very, very raw.

Now, he's shown some ability-- or at least a willingness-- to take catch-and-shoot shots. I think he hit his first 3-pointer. He didn't hit a single 3-pointer in college, and then hit one the other night in summer league. And we've seen him, even in the mid-range shot, where he's willing to take that shot. But when he gets the ball down low, with the exception of one post move and, I think, a hook shot he made, over, ironically Bruno Caboclo-- not Koloko.

AMIT MANN: Say it again.

AARON ROSE: Koloko made the shot over Caboclo. Other than that one shot, we've seen him miss a ton of post-up moves. Now, that's something that's going to develop along the way.

Now, I know there were maybe people saying this guy is a guy who could contribute, next season, to the Raptors. And I've said, hold your horses on that. We're talking about the 33rd pick, a player who is very, very raw.

The Raptors drafted him because he's 7 feet tall. But if he was 7 feet tall and refined, he would have been the first pick, not the 33rd pick. And when you're drafting a guy like that, throw him in the G League. Give him a year. Give him a half a year. Maybe give him two years, and then see what he looks like down the road. So this is a developmental pick for the Raptors. I would not be expecting big things from him this year.

You're right. We have seen his defensive end. That size is going to make a difference. He is deterring shots, he is blocking shots, he will not let you get inside. And I think you see that in summer league. The question is, is he going to be able to defend against much bigger bodies in the NBA regular season? And right now, I have questions about that. And then, on the offensive end, he has a lot of development still to come.

AMIT MANN: Offensively, yes, there is a lot of polishing that has to happen there. And that possession that you're talking about against Bruno Caboclo, that's what I'm looking at. I'm like, all right, so you have something here. There's something there. He looked a lot more comfortable.

Previously, in a few other games, and against that Bulls game, especially, he looked really hesitant, really raw. Again, he looked like he was like a deer in headlights. He didn't know where was where he was going to go, where the offense was coming from, his footwork was off. And I think that's just-- again, that's him getting his reps in, understanding where his opportunities are.

And in that possession against Bruno Caboclo-- it's so funny that it was against him-- but you saw that patience. You saw him going east-west, fighting his way down towards the basket, and the jump hook is there. That's going to have to be his engine for his offense. Like he has that base, and then he uses that to find other ways to orchestrate offense for himself in the post. But obviously there's a lot of work to be done.

You mentioned something about him, next season, with the Raptors. And I think that's what people are really curious about-- how impactful, if at all, could he be on the Raptors next season? And with this team, with them being already so good defensively-- they finished ninth in defensive rating. I would think, Nick Nurse, he would want to be probably in the top five. That's how they are probably, you know, engined to be.

And how do they get there? Is it going to be development from other players? Is it going to be better rim protection? Is it going to be just better health? It could be that.

Or do you think that a person like Koloko, in 10 to 15 minutes, just because he already has so many skills that the Raptors simply don't have, just from the activity standpoint, the length standpoint, the burst to get to certain parts of the court quicker than other players, and then just be, like, a rim detractor? Like, there was a possession in that Jazz game where Jared Butler, a guard for the Utah Jazz, he had a layup, and he just looked back, and Koloko was, like, around the free throw line, and the guy did not take a layup because he just saw Koloko barreling down on him.

I think stuff like that, at 7" 1"-- with a 20 inch vertical, mind you, not bad for someone who's 7' 1", 7' 5" wingspan-- I think that stuff does translate to the NBA pretty quickly. He is raw. He does probably have to put on, like, 10 to 15 pounds or whatever it is, probably in the, like, six-week span before training camp. But there are things that will translate to the NBA pretty fast just because the Raptors are already damn good defensively, and they just need a little bit of rim protection. It's going to help them get to a different tier.

AARON ROSE: Yeah. To me, I would just rather him spend those 30 minutes a night in the G League, working with somebody like Rico Hines, who's with the Raptors this year-- we'll see where he's placed. But that could be something he works with putting on that weight and getting far more playing time with the G League next season. And I'm totally comfortable.

The Raptors-- you're right, they don't have the 7-foot size to staying in the paint. But they don't play those guys very often. You're talking about the Joel Embiids, you're talking about the Jokic players of the world, maybe Jonas Valanciunas, who are 7 feet tall who are going to bang in the paint that you need a guy like Koloko for. But if you're putting Koloko against Joel Embiid in his rookie season, you're going to have a five-alarm fire every single time Joel Embiid gets the ball.

So you're talking about potentially needing some size against smaller guys. And I'm totally comfortable having Precious Achiuwa or Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby do that on a nightly basis. Because the biggest guys in the league, the ones that you want a 7-footer for, I'm not comfortable, right now, with putting Christian Koloko in those situations to take on the Steven Adams, the Jonas Valanciunas on the lower end of that sort of supersized center scale, let alone the guys like Jokic and Joel Embiid, night after night.

So I would rather him put on that weight, get time in the G League for most of the season. Maybe we see him in the second half of the season if his development is quicker, but maybe next year. That is sort of what I'm looking for.

Spend this season putting on weight, learning the game of basketball, fine-tuning those skills that we've seen in there-- that are in there in glimpses. But let's see what you're like next summer, when maybe you've had a full season of development under your belt.

AMIT MANN: Well, he's unsigned still. He does not have a contract yet. So what do you think is going to be coming his way when it's all said and done?

AARON ROSE: Well, to me, it's-- it's certainly interesting that he doesn't have a contract. Now, maybe there's nothing to see here. However, the Raptors did seem--

AMIT MANN: Oh, come on. There's something to see here. There is something to see.

AARON ROSE: It seems like they don't know if they are a taxpayer team or a non-taxpayer team. And we just talked-- spent a while talking about Kevin Durant and how I don't think it's going to happen.

However, it seems like the Raptors are leaving their options open. So what do I mean by that? They need to know if they have more room in the taxpayer exemption, which they probably don't have because of the Otto Porter Jr. contract, and if they want to be a tax team, all they have to spend is that taxpayer exemption which is being eaten up by Otto Porter Jr.

If they are not a taxpayer team, they have plenty of room to sign Christian Koloko to a three- or four-year contract. But it seems like, right now, they want to leave that flexibility open just in case they get a deal for Kevin Durant or someone else that throws them into the tax.

If they find that deal and they're going to be a taxpayer team, I believe they can only sign Koloko, either to a minimum deal-- and he'll probably get more than that-- or with the biannual exception to a two-year deal that comes up every two years, hence the name, biannual exception.

But right now, the Raptors are leaving their options open. Are we going to be a tax team? If so, he'll get the biannual exception. If they're not a tax team, then they can sign him to the standard mid-level exception and give him whatever's left after that Otto Porter Jr. deal.

It's all complicated, nuanced CBA, but essentially, it's just leaving the flexibility open to be a tax team and maybe go after somebody like Kevin Durant.

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