Division Rival Considered ‘Ideal Guy’ for Celtics

Khem Birch

Getty Khem Birch #24 of the Toronto Raptors.

The Boston Celtics have three roster spots remaining. They have two trade exceptions – the $6.9 million Juancho Hernangomez TPE and the $5.9 million Dennis Schroder TPE – they could use. Plus, after trading Daniel Theis, they could use another center. During Malcolm Brogdon’s and Danilo Gallinari’s introductory press conference, Brad Stevens vocalized his faith in Luke Kornet but also mentioned that the team would add another center.

While the Celtics have since signed forward/center Noah Vonleh to a non-guaranteed contract, they could still look at other frontcourt options. According to an Eastern Conference assistant coach, one option could be Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch.

“(He’s) still a guy who needs some polish but has good upside,” the assistant told Heavy’s Sean Deveney.”If he is at 100%, he’d be a great get for Boston… so if you’re the Celtics and you have this TPE, Birch would be the ideal guy,” the exec said.

Birch is slated to make $6,667,500 this coming season, according to Spotrac, so he would fit into the Juancho Hernangomez Trade Exception, but would the Raptors be willing to trade Birch to a division rival coming off an NBA Finals run when they are trying to make some playoff noise of their own?

Why Toronto May Trade Birch

The assistant coach went on to say that Birch’s role with Toronto is unclear, but they may not trade him because they don’t have many other options at center.

“Not sure what Toronto does with him going forward,” the assistant coach said. “I’d think they’d be willing to move him, but they do not have a lot of other options at center, other than going small, and that is probably what they will wind up doing a lot of. They played Precious (Achiuwa) there, they played Pascal (Siakam), but I think the idea is to have Birch start and play 20, 25 minutes.”

The assistant added that Birch is not coming off the best year with Toronto.

“The problem is, he really looked lost offensively, he took too many midrange jumpers, and he was not the same forceful rim protector he’d been in other years. He wasn’t healthy.”

All in all, because they play in the same division, and because Birch’s role in Boston would be small, the assistant coach doesn’t believe a deal would come to fruition.

“The Raptors are not going to give him away, and I can’t imagine they want to give him to the best team in the East, anyway,” the assistant said. “Toronto is going to want a first-rounder. I can’t see Boston giving that up for a third big man. Can’t hurt to ask, though.”

Birch’s 2022 Playoff Performance

In the Raptors’ lone playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, Birch started in four of the six games the Raptors would play against their division rival.

In those six games in total, Birch averaged three points, 1.5 rebounds, and half an assist in 10.5 minutes a game while shooting 50 percent both from the field and from three.

Evidently, though they started him for 66 percent of the series, the Raptors trusted their other frontcourt options like Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa, Chris Boucher, and Thaddeus Young more than they trusted Birch. All five of them played more minutes on average than Birch did.

What could explain that was Birch’s ailing right knee, which he got surgery for not too long after the Raptors were eliminated.

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