The Toronto Raptors enter the 2022-23 NBA season with hopes of returning to the NBA. When training camp officially begins next week, the team will be ready to develop a starting lineup following some key observations. Depending on what the Raptors do, they have a real shot at being a contender in the Eastern Conference.
Last season, Toronto bounced back after missing the playoffs in 2020-21. With the addition of Rookie of the Year Scotty Barnes, the Raptors gained more attention and returned to the spotlight. Despite losing to the Philadelphia 76ers 4-2 in the first round, there are still plenty of positives fans can take from the 2021-22 season.
For the most part, the Raptors’ starting lineup is pretty set. But there is one player who is in danger of losing his starting role with the arrival of the young big man and the addition of the European tourney.
Here’s the Raptors player who could lose his starting job in 2022-23.
After a few years playing in the G-League and Europe, Kem Birch finally found his place in the NBA with the Orlando Magic. In three and a half seasons in Florida, the center was average 4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds In 188 games, starting from 30. He shot 51.8% from the field and helped the team return to the postseason for the first time since the Dwight Howard era.
Birch returned home to Canada and signed with Toronto midway through the 2020-21 season. In his first full season with the Raptors last year, the big man averaged 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds in 18.0 minutes per contest. He played in 55 games and started 28.
Although not a unanimous starter, he came off the bench in just two of six playoff games. He beat out second-year Precious Achiwa and veteran Chris Butcher for the job.
However, for 2022-23, Birch will have some star competition. At least a movie star. The Raptors signed Juancho Hernangomez, who starred in the summer’s viral movie “Hustle” alongside Adam Sandler. Hernangomez’s character of “Bo Cruz” is now widely associated with the actor.
But Hernangomez has shown he can do more than just act. In the year In the 2022 Eurobasket, he A key piece for the gold-winning Spanish team. Power is third on the team in scoring with 12.8 points per game and third in rebounding with 5.0 points per game. In the gold medal game against All-Star Rudy Gobert and France, Hernagomez had 27 points and seven 3-pointers.
Birch is shooting 19.1% from beyond the arc and Hernagomez is making 35.1% of his attempts. Adding Birch to the mix may not be ideal for the team’s gap, as Pascal Siakam and Scotty Barnes are below-average 3-point shooters. With the league getting smaller and smaller every year, maybe the solution for the Raptors is having a big man who can hit the 3, which gives Hernangomez a little advantage.
Also, Achiwa is another name that could steal Birch’s debut. He started 28 games last season but played in 73, which puts his average in starts even lower than Burch’s. The Nigerian center averaged 9.1 points and 6.5 rebounds a night while hitting 35.9% of his 3-point attempts. As a young prospect, head coach Nick Nurse may choose to develop him with more minutes on the court.
Birch will have to struggle in training camp to show he can still be a starting center. With Achiwa developing and Hernangomez coming off a strong summer, the battle for the No. 5 spot should be interesting in Toronto.