1 Raptors player at risk of losing starting job at NBA training camp 2022-23

The Toronto Raptors will enter the 2022-23 NBA season with hopes of returning to the NBA. With training camp officially starting next week, the team will be ready to set their starting lineup after a few 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 2020-21 playoffs. With the addition of Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, the Raptors gained more attention and returned to the spotlight. Despite losing 4-2 to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs, there are still plenty of bright spots fans can take away from the 2021-22 season.

For the most part, the Raptors’ starting lineup is pretty much set. However, there is one player who is at risk of losing his starting role due to the emergence of a big youngster and the addition of a European journeyman.

Here’s the only Raptors player who could lose his starting job in 2022-23:

Khem birch

After a few years of playing in the G-League and Europe, Khem Birch finally earned his spot in the NBA with the Orlando Magic. In three and a half seasons in Florida, the center averaged 4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 188 games, starting 30 of them. He hit 51.8% of the field and helped the team return to the postseason for the first time since the Dwight Howard era.

Birch eventually returned home to Canada and signed with Toronto midway through the 2020-21 season. Last year, his first full season with the Raptors, the big man averaged 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds in 18.0 minutes per game. He played in 55 games and started in 28.

While not a unanimous starter, he only came off the bench in two of the six playoff games. He beat sophomore Precious Achiuwa and veteran Chris Boucher for the job.

However, for 2022-23, Birch will have some all-star competition. At least movie star. The Raptors signed Juancho Hernangomez, who went viral over the summer due to the movie “Hustle” he co-starred with Adam Sandler. Hernangomez’s character “Bo Cruz” is now widely associated with the player.

But Hernangomez has also shown that he can do more than just act. At EuroBasket 2022, he was a key part of the gold-winning Spanish team. The forward was third on the team in scoring with 12.8 points per game, as well as third in rebounds at 5.0 per game. In the gold medal game against All-Star Rudy Gobert and France, Hernangomez left with 27 points and seven 3-pointers.

Birch is a 19.1% shooter over the arc, while Hernangomez shoots 35.1% of his attempts. Since Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes are below average 3-point shooters, adding Birch to the mix may not be ideal for team spacing. With the league getting smaller and smaller each year, perhaps the solution for the Raptors is to have a big man who can hit 3s, which gives Hernangomez a slight edge.

Also, Achiuwa is another name that could steal Birch’s starting job. He was also a starter in 28 games last season but played in 73, which makes his starting average far lower than Birch’s. The Nigerian center recorded 9.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per night, while hitting 35.9% of his 3-point attempts. As a younger prospect, coach Nick Nurse may choose to develop him with more minutes on the court.

Birch will have to fight on the training ground to show he can still be the starting center. With Achiuwa moving up and Hernangómez coming off a strong summer, the battle for number 5 should be interesting in Toronto.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Anthony Edwards

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