Christian Koloko

Raptors Notes: Barnes, Trent, Porter, Boucher, Koloko

The Raptors haven’t missed a beat with All-Star point guard Fred VanVleet (back) unavailable for the last two games, recording blowout wins over Atlanta and San Antonio. Reigning Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes has been the team’s primary de facto point guard, recording a season-high eight assists on Monday vs. Atlanta and five more in San Antonio on Wednesday.

Barnes has displayed improvement as both a shooter and a play-maker in the early parts of the 2022/23 season, showing that his development after last year’s impressive debut is right on track, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

As Michael Grange of writes, the Raptors’ strong performances this week – along with Barnes’ strides as a play-maker – are proof that the team should be able to cut back VanVleet’s minutes a little when he returns, even without a reliable traditional point guard on the depth chart behind him.

VanVleet averaged a team-high 37.9 minutes per game last season and was slowed by injuries by the time the playoffs rolled around. In his first six contests this season, he averaged 38.0 MPG.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • With a player option in hand for 2023/24, Gary Trent Jr. is in a potential contract year and is off to a good start, Grange says in another story. While Grange doesn’t necessarily expect Trent to match the $120MM+ deals signed by Tyler Herro and Jordan Poole, who are more talented ball-handlers and play-makers, he notes that Trent is a good defender whose offensive stats (20.0 PPG on .450/.382/.783 shooting in eight games this season) continue to improve.
  • Otto Porter Jr. didn’t play a huge role in his Raptors debut on Wednesday, but head coach Nick Nurse is excited about what the team’s top offseason free agent addition can provide. “I’m just hoping he can do what he’s done, which is make open threes,” Nurse said on Wednesday, per Dave Feschuk of The Toronto Star. “He’s a really good rebounder, especially positionally. He’s got some good length, so hopefully he can play some defense as well. But really, the perimeter shooting is his specialty and it’s something we could use.”
  • Chris Boucher, who also signed a multiyear free agent contract with Toronto over the summer, is a developmental success story for the Raptors, Koreen contends in a story for The Athletic. Considered a raw “tweener” when he first joined the team, Boucher has become one of the Raptors’ most reliable and productive reserves.
  • In the early part of the 2022/23 season, the Raptors rank first in the NBA in fast break points, steals per game, and defensive rebounding rate, using a terrific transition offense to make up for their subpar half-court production, as Zach Lowe of ESPN (Insider link) outlines.
  • In the same Insider article at ESPN, Lowe also touches on the early impact of rookie big man Christian Koloko. Toronto is allowing just 97 points per 100 possessions with Koloko on the floor, which is better than Milwaukee’s league-best rate of 101.3 points per 100 posessions.

Raptors Notes: Barnes, Koloko, Ujiri, Porter

Scottie Barnes was one of the surprise stories of the 2021/22 season, winning Rookie of the Year honors and helping the Raptors return to the playoffs. In an interview with Steve Aschburner of, Barnes said he understands the game even better now after spending a full season in the league.

“I really know the difference in what it takes to win and how hard each and every game is,” Barnes explained. “So it takes a certain amount of effort every night. I’m really trying to stay consistent with the effort I make on the offensive end and the defensive end. Trying to score points and make winning plays. Try to pull out these wins, because it’s hard to win a game in the NBA. Every possession really counts.”

The 21-year-old forward, who returned to the court tonight after an injury scare over the weekend, focused on off-the-dribble moves during the summer to expand his offensive arsenal. Coach Nick Nurse wants Barnes to become more aggressive in trying to score whenever he has a mismatch.

“I’m a natural passer,” Barnes said. “The first thing I look for, I try to make the right play. See who is open. Try to draw the defense. But it’s just … me trying to be more aggressive, they give me the confidence to do that. That allows me to try to find those mismatches in any way possible. Through pick and rolls or out on the floor. It doesn’t really matter who’s on me, I’ve got to try to do what I do.”

There’s more from Toronto:

  • Rookie center Christian Koloko was looking forward to his first matchup with Sixers star and fellow Cameroon native Joel Embiid tonight (video link). Koloko told reporters he hopes it will inspire youngsters in the African country to see two Cameroonian players face each other in the NBA.
  • Raptors president Masai Ujiri was fined $35K for approaching the scorer’s table during Saturday’s loss to Miami and “directing inappropriate remarks toward a game official,” the NBA announced (via Twitter).
  • Otto Porter Jr., who still hasn’t made his debut with the Raptors, missed another game tonight with a strained hamstring, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Nurse said Porter is getting closer to being ready, and with just one game over the next four days, there’s hope that he will benefit from extra practice time.

NBA Suspends Caleb Martin, Nikola Jovic; Fines Christian Koloko

The NBA has suspended Heat forward/guard Caleb Martin and rookie power forward Nikola Jovic, in addition to fining Raptors rookie center Christian Koloko for their roles in an on-court altercation during Saturday’s game, the league has announced in a press release (Twitter link).

Koloko was tackled and sent into the crowd by Martin, whom the NBA referred to as the instigator of the fight. In its presser, the league notes that it fined Koloko $15K because he grabbed Martin during the altercation.

Martin and Koloko were both ejected with technical fouls after fighting for rebounding position midway through the third quarter of a 112-109 Miami home win over Toronto yesterday. Jovic left his team’s bench to support Martin during the fracas, resulting in an automatic one-game suspension.

The Raptors will square off against the Heat again on Miami’s home floor, FTX Arena, tomorrow, October 24, during which Jovic and Martin will serve their suspensions.

After signing a new three-year, $20.5MM deal to stay with Miami in the summer, Martin has started off the season slowly on offense as the team’s starting power forward. He is averaging 6.3 PPG on .333/.167/1.000 through three games, plus 5.3 RPG, 1.7 APG and 1.3 SPG.

The 6’10” Jovic, selected with the No. 27 pick by Miami this summer, has yet to play for the Heat this season. The 7’1″ Koloko, the No. 33 selection in the 2022 draft out of Arizona, has played sparingly thus far for Toronto, averaging 1.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG and 0.7 BPG in 15.7 MPG through his first pro contests.

Heat Notes: Martin, Yurtseven, Oladipo, Dedmon

Heat forward Caleb Martin and Raptors center Christian Koloko face fines and possible suspensions after being ejected for fighting in Saturday’s game.

According to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald, the skirmish happened midway through the third quarter as both players were chasing a rebound. Koloko was knocked over and Martin was whistled for a loose ball foul. Koloko seemed to accidentally swipe Martin in the back of his head on his way down, and Martin angrily stood over Koloko before they began throwing punches.

“I just think that there’s a lot of plays that were kind of leading up to it. It was a chippy game,” Martin said. “That’s typically how the game goes with Toronto. It’s chippy back and forth. But ultimately I just think that emotions were high and the game was a close game. It was back and forth. Overall, I got to be more professional in the way I handle those type of situations.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra credited assistants Malik Allen and Caron Butler for keeping other players on the bench and not escalating the fight, which could have led to multiple suspensions. Koloko, who was playing just his third NBA game, said he didn’t understand what made Martin so angry.

“When he fouled me, he was basically grabbing me and pushing me,” Koloko said. “I don’t know … I’m confused. I don’t know why. I don’t even know him, so I don’t know what was going on in his head. He just stood there looking at me like crazy. I just stood up. I don’t know.”

There’s more from Miami:

  • Omer Yurtseven is listed as day-to-day with a left ankle impingement, but the Heat haven’t set a timetable for him to return, Chiang writes in a separate story. Yurtseven was competing for the backup center spot heading into training camp, but the injury has kept him out of action since the first preseason game. “They said structurally [it’s fine],” Yurtseven said. “I went to like five different doctors just to make sure everything was fine just to double, triple and quadruple check.”
  • The Heat also don’t have a timetable for Victor Oladipo, who has missed the first three games with left knee tendinosis, Chiang adds. The team is being careful with Oladipo after he underwent two surgeries on his right knee in a little more than three years. “I wouldn’t say extra cautious. I would say appropriate and measured approach with this,” Spoelstra said. “We’re looking at the long game. This has been about investing in him and his health for two years and we just want to make sure that we’re taking all the necessary steps to get him back out there where there’s not a setback.”
  • Reserve center Dewayne Dedmon has gotten off to a slow start and could see a reduced role as the season wears on, suggests Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel.

Raptors Notes: Injury Updates, Koloko, Growth, Expectations

Raptors big man Khem Birch (offseason knee surgery) is available for Friday’s game against the Nets. As Michael Grange of relays (via Twitter), Birch said he sat out Wednesday’s home opener against Cleveland for precautionary reasons and his knee “is feeling better” after experiencing swelling. Birch did not require a follow-up MRI, Grange adds.

Unfortunately, Chris Boucher and Otto Porter, who are both dealing with hamstring strains, are still out, tweets Blake Murphy of According to Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter thread), head coach Nick Nurse said he’s not sure when Boucher will be back, but he’s nearing a return.

He’s in pretty good shape. It should be soon,” Nurse said.

Porter, meanwhile, still hasn’t been able to practice yet, having been limited to individual conditioning and skill work. Lewenberg thinks a late-October or early-November return for the veteran forward “seems realistic.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Pressed into duty in part due to the injuries of the aforementioned bench trio, rookie center Christian Koloko showcased a different look for the Raptors in their opener, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. The 7’1″ native of Cameroon finished with three points, six rebounds and a block in 15 minutes, and teammates felt his impact in the paint on both ends of the court. “Having him be really the only big we’ve got, it makes it stand out more when he’s out there,” Fred VanVleet said, per Koreen. “We’re definitely gonna lean on him when he’s out there.”
  • The Raptors have the “vibe of a young, growing team,” but a salary cap crunch could make the roster difficult to retain in the future, Grange writes in a story for As Grange notes, VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. can be a free agents next summer if they decline their player options, Precious Achiuwa will be eligible for a rookie scale extension, Pascal Siakam would be eligible for a super-max extension if he makes an All-NBA team again this season, and OG Anunoby will be a free agent in 2024.
  • Toronto is unlikely to make any significant moves early in the season, which is normal. However, the team’s front office is preparing for what could be a very active trade deadline, and the Raptors feature several interesting players with desirable contracts. According to Doug Smith of The Toronto Star, the Raptors expect to advance past the first round of the playoffs in 2022/23 after losing their first-round series to Philadelphia last season, and if they don’t, there could be a major roster shakeup next summer.

Eastern Notes: Mobley, Koloko, Raptors, Barrett, Terry

The Cavaliers announced on Monday that power forward Evan Mobley would miss one-to-two weeks due to a right ankle sprain. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff is confident that he’ll have Mobley back in action by opening night, according to Kelsey Russo of The Athletic.

“We’ll always be safe with our guys, but right now there isn’t a concern that he would miss the start of the season,” Bickerstaff said.

In the meantime, Bickerstaff will look at different combinations during the preseason.

“It gives other people an opportunity to play different spots, and get more minutes and more reps and allows us to get more things on film that we can kind of dissect,” he said.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Raptors went most of last season with a rotation of players no taller than 6’9”. That could change this season if 7’1” Christian Koloko can establish a rotation spot, Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes. Coach Nick Nurse wants Koloko to become a shot-blocking presence. “For me, he’s a shot blocker, first and foremost,” Nurse said. “I’ll use the same analogy as I used (about) getting to the rim: If you want to block shots, you better take some swings out there. And I want to up his number of swings he takes at the ball.”
  • The Raptors might have to take a small step back this season to set up a bigger step forward in 2024 or 2025, John Hollinger of The Athletic opines in his season preview. Hollinger forecasts a top-six finish in the Eastern Conference with the possibility of the Raptors advancing out of the first round but no further.
  • Knicks guard RJ Barrett received his lucrative rookie scale extension this offseason but still feels he doesn’t receive the same accolades as his peers, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “Besides the fans, which we do have a lot of fans, everybody else really doesn’t like us,” Barrett said. “Everybody else doesn’t like us. I mean, I don’t know. It’s weird. I’ve gotten respect, but at the same time, there’s a lot of disrespect. But that’s fine. All the guys that they want to put in front of me or whatever, I’m in their heads. So it really doesn’t matter.”
  • Bulls first-rounder Dalen Terry won’t mind going to the G League to develop his skills. He just wants to get playing time this season, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. “Do whatever I can do to stay on the floor,” Terry said.

Contract Details: Koloko, Caboclo, Silva, Tillman, Watanabe, Spurs

As initially reported by Blake Murphy of, the Raptors used exactly $1.5MM of their mid-level exception to sign rookie big man Christian Koloko to a three-year contract on Friday. With the second and third years worth the minimum, Koloko’s deal has a total three-year value of $5,239,563.

The first two years of that contract are fully guaranteed, Hoops Rumors has learned, with the third year non-guaranteed. Koloko’s salary for 2024/25 would become fully guaranteed if he hasn’t been waived within 48 hours of the 2024 NBA draft.

Here are a few more details on newly-signed contracts from around the NBA:

  • The new one-year, non-guaranteed contracts for Bruno Caboclo (Celtics), Chris Silva (Hawks), and Justin Tillman (Nuggets) all include Exhibit 10 language. Silva’s and Tillman’s deals could be converted into two-way contracts, but Caboclo’s can’t, since he has too many years of NBA service to be two-way eligible.
  • Yuta Watanabe‘s one-year, non-guaranteed contract with the Nets includes an Exhibit 9 clause, but not an Exhibit 10. That essentially means that Watanabe is only in the mix to compete for a regular season roster spot and probably won’t be joining Brooklyn’s G League affiliate if he’s cut (he’s ineligible for a two-way deal).
  • Alize Johnson‘s non-guaranteed contract with the Spurs is an Exhibit 9, but not an Exhibit 10. Tommy Kuhse‘s deal is an Exhibit 10, so he could have it converted into a two-way deal or could become an affiliate player for the Austin Spurs.

Raptors Sign Second-Rounder Christian Koloko

The Raptors have signed second-round pick Christian Koloko to a multiyear contract, the team announced today in a press release.

According to Blake Murphy of Sportsnet (Twitter link), Toronto used a portion of its mid-level exception to give Koloko a three-year contract. He’ll earn $1.5MM in 2022/23 and minimum salaries the following two seasons, Murphy reports.

Since the Raptors already gave Otto Porter Jr. $6MM of their mid-level exception in free agency, using an additional $1.5MM on Koloko will push them over the taxpayer portion ($6,479,000) of the MLE, so Toronto will be hard-capped for the rest of the season, meaning the team will be unable to surpass the tax apron of $156,983,000. Currently, the Raptors’ team salary is below the luxury tax line of $150,267,000, so the hard cap shouldn’t be a pressing issue.

The 33rd pick of June’s draft, Koloko was one of only three remaining players who was drafted, had yet to be signed, and wasn’t expected to play overseas. The other two players are Pelicans forward E.J. Liddell, who unfortunately suffered a torn ACL in Summer League, and Pacers forward Kendall Brown.

The long delay in Koloko’s signing was speculated to be tied to Kevin Durant‘s trade request out of Brooklyn, as the Raptors likely wanted to keep their options open in case of a deal. However, Durant and the Nets are said to be “moving forward” together, and now Toronto has signed its lone 2022 draft pick.

A 7’1″ big man from Cameroon, Koloko most recently played for the Raptors in Summer League, appearing in five games (22 MPG) while averaging 7.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.8 SPG and a team-high 2.2 BPG.

Koloko played three seasons of college ball at Arizona, earning numerous accolades for his breakout junior season in ’21/22, including Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player, and first-team All-Pac-12. In 37 games (25.4 MPG) for the Wildcats last season, he averaged 12.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG and 2.8 BPG while shooting 63.5% from the floor and 73.5% from the line.

Raptors Notes: Harris, Koloko, Trent, Birch

The Raptors have several options with Jalen Harris now that they’ve reportedly extended a two-way qualifying offer, Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes in a mailbag column. Harris, who was dismissed from the NBA in July of 2021 for violating the terms of the league’s anti-drug program, was reinstated last week.

The QO makes Harris a restricted free agent and gives Toronto the opportunity to match any offer he might receive. He can also be signed-and-traded, although Koreen believes that’s unlikely considering his year-long absence.

The Raptors are likely targeting Harris for their G League affiliate, but first he would have to sign an Exhibit 10 contract or enter the G League draft. Toronto currently has 19 players under contract, and Koreen expects the final spot to go to Arizona center Christian Koloko, who was taken with the 33rd pick in this year’s draft. However, rookie forward Gabe Brown has an Exhibit 10 deal and appears ticketed for the G League. Once he’s waived, there would be an opening for Harris.

There’s more from Toronto:

  • Contract considerations may affect how the Raptors utilize Gary Trent Jr. this season, Koreen adds in the same piece. Trent holds an $18.56MM player option for the 2023/24 season, so Koreen believes the team may be reluctant to move him to a full-time sixth-man role, which could reduce his desire to remain in Toronto. Koreen also notes that the Raptors will eventually run into salary issues, so they might not be planning to pay Trent as a starter beyond his current contract. Trent put up career-best numbers in his first full season in Toronto, averaging 18.3 points and 2.0 assists in 70 games.
  • Khem Birch expects to be ready for training camp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in late May, tweets Michael Grange of Injuries limited the 29-year-old center to 55 games last season.
  • The Raptors are a “sleeping giant” in the East, according to Ben Golliver of the Washington Post. Golliver notes that the organization is set up well for the future with no bad contracts on its books and all its future first-round picks available. Toronto has two current All-Stars in Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, a potential franchise player in Scottie Barnes and a group of rotation players who are all younger than 30.

Checking In Again On Unsigned 2022 Draft Picks

We’re about a month-and-a-half removed from the 2022 NBA draft, and – as our tracker shows – 46 of the 58 players selected on June 23 have signed their first NBA contracts.

The 12 unsigned players are as follows:

  1. Toronto Raptors: Christian Koloko, F/C
  2. Detroit Pistons: Gabriele Procida, G
  3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Khalifa Diop, C
  4. New Orleans Pelicans: E.J. Liddell, F
  5. Denver Nuggets: Ismael Kamagate, C
  6. Indiana Pacers: Kendall Brown, F
  7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Matteo Spagnolo, G
  8. New Orleans Pelicans: Karlo Matkovic, F
  9. Washington Wizards: Yannick Nzosa, C
  10. Golden State Warriors: Gui Santos, F
  11. Cleveland Cavaliers: Luke Travers, G/F
  12. Milwaukee Bucks: Hugo Besson, G

Most of these prospects will likely spend the 2022/23 season playing in non-NBA leagues around the world. Procida, Diop, Kamagate, Spagnolo, Matkovic, Nzosa, Santos, Travers, and Besson are all good bets to be draft-and-stash players.

That essentially just leaves three 2022 draftees in limbo: Koloko, Liddell, and Brown.

A player selected within the first five picks of the second round, like Koloko was, virtually always receives a multiyear contract that includes at least a year or two of guaranteed money. It’s hard to imagine that won’t be the case for Koloko, despite the Raptors‘ roster crunch. Toronto already has 13 players on guaranteed contracts, with three players on partial guarantees vying for a regular season spot, so if Koloko signs, it would leave one fewer spot up for grabs.

It’s worth noting that once Koloko officially signs, he’ll be ineligible to be traded for 30 days, so it’s possible the Raptors are keeping their options open in case their Kevin Durant trade talks with the Nets get serious.

Toronto may also be mulling whether to use a portion of its mid-level exception to sign Koloko to a contract that spans three or four years. Taking that route, instead of signing him to a two-year, minimum-salary contract, would ensure he remains under team control for an extra season or two, but would hard-cap the Raptors for the 2022/23 season, since the club already used $6MM of its MLE to sign Otto Porter.

Liddell, meanwhile, suffered an unfortunate break to begin his professional career, tearing his ACL during the Las Vegas Summer League. Before he sustained that injury, the question was probably whether Liddell would receive a standard contract or a two-way deal. Now, the question is whether New Orleans still willing to sign him to a two-way contract or whether the team wants to use that slot on someone who could actually contribute on the court in 2022/23.

If they fill their two-way slots, the Pelicans would probably like to see Liddell sign a G League contract and spend the season rehabbing with the Birmingham Squadron before he signs his first NBA deal a year from now.

As for Brown, it remains to be seen whether he’ll begin the season on the Pacers‘ standard 15-man roster or on a two-way deal. For now, Indiana could go in either direction, but the club could be waiting to see whether there are any more trades to be made before training camp begins — if the Pacers were to complete a deal involving Myles Turner and/or Buddy Hield, the number of players they receive in that trade would have an impact on whether or not there’s room on the standard roster for Brown.

For example, if Indiana send Turner and Hield to the Lakers in exchange for Russell Westbrook and draft assets, then bought out Westbrook, it would open up two extra spots on the projected 15-man roster. In that scenario, signing Brown to a three- or four-year standard contract would make sense.