Why Raptors' Christian Koloko exceeded expectations this season
Imman Adan and Asad Alvi recap Christian Koloko's rookie season, the signs of potential and goals for his sophomore campaign. Listen to the full podcast handing out grades to all the bench players on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed.
IMMAN ADAN: Christian Koloko-- what grade would you give to Mr. Christian Koloko? [INAUDIBLE] off the bench, let me say, because Scottie Barnes is [INAUDIBLE].
ASAD ALVI: For Christian Koloko to be a second-round pick and play as many minutes as he did this season, I-- I'm not gonna give him an A-plus because there's always room for improvement. But he's definitely in an A, A-minus territory because, like, he came in. And from the start of the season and basically throughout the season, he made his defensive presence known. And, like, the biggest flaws with him are, what, that he's just not strong enough yet, that he struggles at the rim offensively, which are, like, known weaknesses.
IMMAN ADAN: Those are pretty big.
ASAD ALVI: Yeah, but those are, like, known. Those are known development areas that we kind of knew coming in. So, like, for the expectations of someone-- like, for him to average, like, 13 minutes a game--
IMMAN ADAN: Same development issues people would give to someone who maybe started for the Cavaliers.
ASAD ALVI: Exactly. So, like, if he has the same offensive issues--
IMMAN ADAN: Mini Tim Duncan.
ASAD ALVI: --as the number two pick from last year's draft, like, what are we saying? No, but seriously, Christian-- I was actually, like, looking back at some of his film after the season. I was pretty surprised that just like-- I think he's fairly close to becoming, like, a really good bench big. At the minimum, like, his defensive impact numbers were outstanding throughout the year. Like, there was--
IMMAN ADAN: Right
ASAD ALVI: Like, his rim protection was real. And even without the size to like fully win out, like, as a defensive rebounder, he could probably get a lot better as he gets stronger. Like, he just got pushed off of positions a lot just because he's a very slender-- he's very slender right now.
IMMAN ADAN: Right.
ASAD ALVI: But as he, you know, got bigger and especially towards the end of the season, like, when he did that long G-League stint and came back, he had some really good games where he, like, effectively replaced Precious Achiuwa in the lineup because he was just playing really good basketball-- really sound basketball. He was setting good screens. He was a little bit better with his positioning as a big to make sure that he wasn't clogging the paint as much.
And, again, being-- like, him being as defensively viable as he was for what his role is on the team-- like, you've got to give him an A. I think I'm going to give him an A. I think, like, there was no expectation that Christian Koloko would even play minutes in the first half of the season. And he ended up probably playing-- he played more minutes than any of the other prospects on the team.
IMMAN ADAN: That's-- I'm thinking about it. I'm thinking about it. You know what? Christian Koloko-- of any guy who's played at least, I think, 30 minutes-- or played at least 30 games, I mean-- he has the highest net rating of any bench player. He might be-- by a significant margin, I should say. So, just by that factor alone, I think that, like, of anyone who-- 'cause Scottie Barnes is in here having only played a game. Ron Harper Jr.'s in here as guys who have higher net ratings.
But I was sort of looking it up as you were speaking. I think that sort of points to the fact that, like, hey. And you know what? Beyond that, what you need from your bench players-- and we talked about this at the top, which is why I was glad that we could have that conversation initially-- is sometimes you have to play starter minutes. Sometimes you have to fill in for somebody or for a role that the team needs. And that's what he did before the Raptors had Jakob Poeltl.
When they needed a rim protector, we saw what the rim protection numbers are, which is the reason why he has such a high net rating. It's 'cause of how often he had to play alongside the starters. And the starters are good. Like, I'm sorry to the guys who don't play alongside them. Quite often, you're not gonna have as high of a net rating. But he filled a role that this team really needed in those key moments.
And, granted, he's not there yet in his development. But for what this team needed, I thought he did a good job. He hit a three-- a single, solitary three from the corner, which was really fun. And I think it's fun to have fun moments like that. I give grades pretty easily. I feel like I'd be a really chill teacher-- A's for everybody. So I'm giving-- I'm giving Christian Koloko the highest grade from the bench. He gets-- he gets an A from me.