2:49pm: The Magic have officially released Birch, the team announced in a press release. He’ll clear waivers on Saturday afternoon if no team places a claim.
9:15am: The Magic intend to waive center Khem Birch in order to give him an opportunity to play more elsewhere, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link), who reports – with Shams Charania – that Birch is a good bet to end up with the Raptors.
Birch, 28, was a key part of the Magic’s rotation earlier in the season, serving as Nikola Vucevic‘s primary backup and averaging 6.9 PPG and 6.0 RPG in 22.0 minutes per game through his first 28 contests.
However, his role has been reduced since then, partly due to a dip in production (3.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, .314 FG% in his last 20 games) and also because Orlando is focused on developing former lottery picks Wendell Carter and Mohamed Bamba.
Assuming he’s officially released today or tomorrow, Birch will retain his postseason eligibility for a new club. Teams with $3MM in cap room or a trade exception worth at least $3MM would have the opportunity to nab the big man off waivers, but if he goes unclaimed, it sounds like Toronto would be his top choice.
While the Raptors aren’t a title contender, the fit would make sense for a couple reasons. For one, Birch is a Canadian, having been born in Montreal and attended high school in Ontario, so – even though they’re playing in Tampa this season – the Raptors are essentially his hometown team.
Additionally, Toronto has been on the lookout for help at the five since losing Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in free agency last fall, so Birch would have the opportunity to play right away. The Raptors are also still just two games back of the No. 10 seed in the East, so Birch could help them push for a spot in the play-in tournament.
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