Chris Boucher

Raptors Notes: Boucher, Roster, Nurse, Tax

After missing the entire preseason due to a dislocated finger, Raptors big man Chris Boucher has been cleared to return for the team’s regular season opener, writes Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press (link via The Toronto Star).

Boucher had a breakout year in 2020/21, averaging 13.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 1.9 BPG in 60 games (24.2 MPG). He’s expected to once again play a regular role in the Raptors’ frontcourt this season before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2022.

“My whole career, my whole time in Toronto, nothing has been promised … I had to work for everything, I see it the same way this year,” Boucher said of his mindset in a contract year, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link). “… At the end of the day I gotta be consistent, that’s the one remaining thing I gotta focus on.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Toronto’s roster, which is heavy on long, versatile forwards, is unlikely any group the franchise has put together in its 27 years of existence, opines Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. As Smith observes, 11 of the Raptors’ 15 players on standard contracts have listed heights of at least 6’7″, but none are taller than 6’9″.
  • Having lost veteran leaders like Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, and Marc Gasol in recent years, head coach Nick Nurse will be tasked with leading a less experienced group this season, Smith writes for The Toronto Star. While Nurse adjusts his style to accommodate the new-look roster, Fred VanVleet says he’s helping the newcomers adapt to Nurse’s outside-the-box approach to coaching. “He’s a little weird at times, but he won us a championship, so he knows what he’s doing,” VanVleet said.
  • Following the Raptors’ roster cuts on the weekend, Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca took an in-depth look at the team’s cap and tax situation and which recently-waived players are – or aren’t – expected to play in the G League with the Raptors 905. Toronto’s team salary is currently above the luxury tax line, but the club still has the flexibility to duck below that line after pushing back the salary guarantee dates for Sam Dekker and Isaac Bonga.

Raptors Notes: Roster Battle, Siakam, Boucher, Anunoby

The fight to make the Raptors‘ 15-man regular season squad has been one of the NBA’s more competitive preseason roster battles, with Sam Dekker, Ishmail Wainright, and Isaac Bonga vying to earn two spots (or just one, if Toronto opens the season with 14 players). Addressing the competition today, Dekker said he’ll be happy for Wainright and/or Bonga if they beat him out for a roster spot.

“These are guys I’ll stay in touch with for a long time no matter what and I’m always going to cheer for them, because it’s the weakness of a man to root for someone to fail,” Dekker said, adding that his current teammates are some of the “kindest human beings” he knows (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca).

Wainright also expressed gratitude for the opportunity to make his case for a regular season roster spot, regardless of what the Raptors decide.

“No matter how it goes, I’m not going to hang my head,” Wainright said (Twitter link via Lewenberg). “My family always told me when one door closes, another opens. I’m coming out of this a better man, a better basketball player, a better person, period… Whatever happens, I gave it my all from start to finish.”

All three players have had strong camps, according to Lewenberg (Twitter link). While many teams will set their rosters by Saturday, the Raptors could wait until Monday if they want, since Dekker, Wainright, and Bonga all have partial guarantees. That means their cap hits would remain unchanged if they don’t clear waivers until after the regular season begins, unlike a player on a non-guaranteed deal, who must be waived by Saturday for a team to avoid incurring a small cap charge.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Appearing on SiriusXM NBA Radio on Tuesday, head coach Nick Nurse said that Pascal Siakam (shoulder) is starting contact work this week and may only be a few weeks away from returning, while big man Chris Boucher (finger) is about 10 days away (Twitter link via Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca).
  • With Siakam sidelined to start the season and Kyle Lowry no longer a Raptor, the team is grooming OG Anunoby to be a centerpiece of its offense, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “He’s our number one option right now,” Fred VanVleet said of his teammate. “He’s been great, he’s been assertive finding his spots, I think me and him are finding a little bit of rhythm together, so it’s good to see.”
  • Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca takes a look at the battle between Goran Dragic and Gary Trent Jr. for the second starting spot in the backcourt alongside VanVleet, suggesting Dragic appears to have the upper hand.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic didn’t love the terms of the Raptors’ free agent contracts with Trent and Khem Birch, but praised the team for getting Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk on a minimum-salary deal. Hollinger projects the team to finish with a 40-42 record, good for ninth in the East.

Atlantic Notes: Watanabe, Gillespie, Birch, Achiuwa, Simmons, Millsap

Despite dealing with a calf strain, Yuta Watanabe is a safe bet to make the Raptors’ opening-night roster, according to Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca. Watanabe is a multi-position defender and the coaching staff is looking for him to play a bigger offensive role. His partially guaranteed contract becomes fully guaranteed if he’s on the 15-man after training camp.

Freddie Gillespie, whose partially-guaranteed deal also becomes fully guaranteed on opening night, may be playing his way off the Raptors’ roster, Murphy writes. Gillespie struggled in summer league games and hasn’t looked any better in preseason action.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors center Khem Birch was cleared to make his preseason debut on Monday after a bout with COVID-19, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca tweets. Birch, along with his wife and daughter, caught the virus and he experienced symptoms despite being fully vaccinated. Birch re-signed with Toronto on a three-year deal this summer.
  • Birch and Precious Achiuwa will split the minutes at the center spot on an almost even platoon when the regular season commences, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. It’s not certain who will start but the Raptors will ease Birch back into action. Chris Boucher will be out at least another 2-3 weeks as he recovers from finger surgery.
  • Amid reports that the possibility of Ben Simmons reporting to the Sixers is growing, coach Doc Rivers said on Monday that “we would love to get him back,” Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Rivers has spoken with Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul, adding that “our position hasn’t changed at all.”
  • Nets forward Paul Millsap was also sidelined briefly by the league’s health and safety protocols during camp but he was cleared to play in Monday’s preseason game, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Millsap only missed one preseason contest.

Chris Boucher Has Finger Surgery, To Miss 3-4 Weeks

Raptors big man Chris Boucher will be out a minimum of three-to-four weeks after undergoing surgery to repair his dislocated left middle finger, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets.

Coach Nick Nurse announced Boucher’s surgery prior to the team’s preseason game on Monday. The surgery was done to realign the finger, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca tweets.

Boucher had a breakout season in his fourth year in the league, averaging 13.6 PPG and 6.7 RPG in 24.2 MPG in 60 regular-season games. Boucher and Khem Birch are battling for the starting center spot but Boucher is now projected to miss the first week or two of the regular season. Toronto has seven regular-season games this month.

Boucher, who is making $7MM this season, will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Eastern Notes: Watanabe, Boucher, Bassey, Cavaliers, Simmons

The Raptors are expecting more out of 26-year-old forward Yuta Watanabe this fall, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. Watanabe recently competed in the Olympics with Japan, learning to become more aggressive on the offensive end during his time in Tokyo.

“With the international team, I had to be that aggressive every time I touched the ball … so that was a lot different,” he explained. “I understand that my role is not going to be like that with the Raptors, but still … I need to be more aggressive because it makes it a lot easier for my teammates to score. Or I can draw attention, I can pass the ball and they can make shots.

“So definitely, I need to be more aggressive to help my teammates and help my team.”

Watanabe saw his two-way contract converted into a standard deal last April. He’ll be competing for a roster spot during Toronto’s preseason with Freddie Gillespie, Sam Dekker and others this month.

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • Speaking of the Raptors, big man Chris Boucher recently sustained a dislocated finger, the team announced. Boucher will miss the club’s first preseason game against the Sixers on Monday. He’s coming off the best season of his four-year career, averaging 13.6 points and 6.7 rebounds in 24.2 minutes per contest.
  • Sixers rookie Charles Bassey won’t travel with the team for its game against Toronto, Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Bassey signed a contract last week with the organization but still needs to finalize his work visa, Mizell notes.
  • The Cavaliers will be interested in acquiring disgruntled Sixers star Ben Simmons for as long as he’s available, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com tweets. Cleveland could theoretically offload one of Collin Sexton or Darius Garland in any deal, combining that player with Kevin Love‘s contract to match salaries. The club could also try to entice a third team to join any proposal.

Raptors Waive Hood, Bembry, Watson

The Raptors have waived DeAndre’ Bembry, Rodney Hood, and Paul Watson, according to a team press release. All three players had non-guaranteed contracts for the 2021/22 season.

According to Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports, the Raptors had always planned to waive Hood, who was acquired as part of the team’s trade of Gary Trent for Norman Powell, unless they could use his contract as filler in another trade. Lewenberg also suggests the decisions to waive Watson and Bembry indicate the team is either looking to create added cap flexibility or will simply go elsewhere with its end-of-bench roster spots.

Hood has been a productive player since being drafted 23rd in the 2014 draft by the Jazz, but staying healthy has been a challenge for the 6’7 lefty. Hood fractured his hand after coming over to Toronto, putting an early end on the least productive season of his career.

As we relayed earlier today, Hood already has a deal lined up with the Bucks, who are looking to add more shooting for next year’s playoff run.

In a separate tweet, Lewenberg reports that Toronto’s plan is to waive backup center Aron Baynes before his guarantee deadline tomorrow unless his money is needed in trades, and will retain Chris Boucher through his Sunday guarantee date.

Baynes came over as a free agent in the hopes that he would help stabilize the center position upon the departure of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, but his lone year with the Raptors was a disappointment, with the 34-year-old Australian unable to carve out a role for himself. Boucher, meanwhile, has been a massive development success for the Raptors, turning into a solid rim-protector and three-point shooter in his fourth season.

14 NBA Players On Canada’s Preliminary Olympic Qualifying Roster

Team Canada has yet to secure a place in the men’s basketball event at the Tokyo Olympics, but the club should have a loaded roster as it looks to lock up a spot in a qualifying tournament next month.

Canada Basketball issued a press release today announcing its 21-player preliminary roster for the Olympic qualifier, and the group includes 14 players who finished the season on NBA contracts. Here’s the full list:

Of the seven players who didn’t play in the NBA this season, one (Bennett) is a former first overall pick, another (Nicholson) was also a first-round selection, and a third (Alexander) has NBA experience. Bell-Haynes has played in the G League, while Doornekamp, Ejim, and Nembhard all have extensive experience representing Canada in past international competitions.

Still, a few noteworthy names are missing from the list. Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is recovering from a torn ACL and won’t be able to participate. Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is also dealing with an injury, announcing on Instagram that rehabbing the plantar fasciitis in his right foot will prevent him from representing Team Canada.

Raptors big man Chris Boucher is a third notable omission. According to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link), Boucher is focused on rehabbing a knee sprain and wants to make sure he’s 100% healthy heading into 2021/22. He also has a somewhat uncertain contract situation — his $7MM salary for next season is non-guaranteed, though I’d be shocked if he’s not retained.

Even without Murray, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Boucher, Canada Basketball is in position to run out a roster stacked with NBA talent and led by former NBA Coach of the Year Nick Nurse.

While the final roster will depend in part on which players are available, none of the 21 players on the preliminary are on teams expected to still be alive for the conference finals. However, a club like Powell’s Mavericks or Barrett’s Knicks could surprise.

Team Canada will compete against Greece, China, Uruguay, Turkey, and the Czech Republic in a qualifying tournament in Victoria, British Columbia between June 29 and July 4. If the club wins that six-team qualifier, it will be part of the 12-team field in Tokyo and would be a legit contender for a medal.

Chris Boucher Diagnosed With MCL Sprain

2:16pm: The Raptors have sent out a press release confirming Boucher’s diagnosis and announcing that he’ll be sidelined at least until the club departs for its upcoming West Coast trip, which begins on April 29 in Denver. His status will be updated as appropriate, according to the team.


10:16am: Raptors big man Chris Boucher has been diagnosed with a sprained left MCL, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Boucher, who hurt his knee during Wednesday’s win over Brooklyn, had been set to undergo further testing on Thursday to determine the severity of the injury. It sounds like those tests revealed no major structural damage, which is good news for Boucher and the Raptors.

A specific return timeline for Boucher has not yet been set, and will hinge on how his rehab process goes, says Charania. Typically, players who suffer MCL sprains miss at least a couple weeks of action. There are just over three weeks left in the 2020/21 regular season, but hopefully Boucher’s year isn’t over yet.

After re-signing with the Raptors during the 2020 offseason, Boucher has embraced an increased role with Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol no longer in the frontcourt picture. He has averaged 13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game in 59 contests (24.0 MPG), making a case for a longer-term stay with the club.

Boucher’s contract includes a non-guaranteed $7MM salary for 2021/22. Even if Toronto hopes to maximize its cap space this summer, it might make sense to guarantee that money, since a new contract for the 28-year-old is unlikely to come any cheaper.

Raptors Notes: Centers, Watanabe, Trent, Boucher

The recent additions of centers Khem Birch and Freddie Gillespie seem to have fixed the depth trouble at center that has plagued the Raptors all season, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN. At 6’9″, both are nominally a bit undersized for the position, but compensate in strength and awareness.

“It’s definitely a good fit,” Gillespie, on his second 10-day deal with the club, said. “I think the Raptors looked at my skill set and said that’s something we could use. When a team brings you in clearly you offer something that they need.”

There’s more out of Toronto-by-way-of-Tampa:

  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse noted that the club had considered converting Yuta Watanabe‘s contract to a standard deal for a while, tweets Blake Murphy of The Athletic. “We thought he deserved it,” Nurse said. “We had the roster spot to do it with… He’s certainly under consideration to be part of this team going forward.” Watanabe’s new deal covers next season as well as this one, but isn’t fully guaranteed for 2021/22.
  • New Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. is enjoy his tenure with his new team, as he recently told reporters (video link via The Toronto Star). “It’s an amazing fit,” Trent said. “Everybody comes in and works hard, so you know this is the perfect place for me. This is the perfect fit for me.”
  • The Raptors expect to examine the sprained left knee of forward Chris Boucher via an MRI scan tonight, and to have more information on his health going forward tomorrow, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.

Atlantic Notes: Boucher, Robinson, Sixers, Nurse

Raptors forward Chris Boucher, enjoying a stellar offensive year after re-signing with Toronto to a bargain two-year, $13.5MM deal during the offseason, still has room to grow on defense, according to Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star.

“It’s a tricky spot we’re in because (Boucher) looks great on (offense),” head coach Nick Nurse said this past week. “Even the blocked shots look great. But we’re giving up a lot of things at the other end. We’ve got to figure it out.” In 24.1 MPG, Boucher is averaging career-highs of 14.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 2.0 BPG this season, while connecting on a career-high 43.9% of his 3.8 three-point attempts.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks center Mitchell Robinson, who could return to New York’s rotation as soon as tonight, had a metal plate inserted into his hand following surgery to address his broken right hand, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News tweets.
  • While other teams in the East have made intriguing upgrades as they shore up their rosters for the playoffs (such as Milwaukee’s deal for P.J. Tucker and Miami’s trade for Trevor Ariza), Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that the Sixers appear willing to selectively make improvements should it help their title odds. According to Pompey, the 76ers have been active in discussions with teams about being a third partner in three-team transactions, and the club may consider buyout market additions as well.
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse has been fined $50K by the NBA after he threw his mask into the stands while protesting the officiating of a 115-112 Toronto loss to the Jazz on Friday, according to Steven Psihogios of Yahoo Sports“It just didn’t seem like they were going to let us win tonight,” Nurse complained. “A lot of calls, man. Every trip, every possession was free throws.” The Jazz had 41 free throw opportunities, while the Raptors took just 14.