Christian Koloko's biggest impact this season is going to come in the plays that don't end up happening.
That's part of the job description for the Toronto Raptors' seven-foot big man whose defensive impact is going to be tough to quatify this year. Take his preseason debut, for example. Koloko finished Sunday night without a single block and three personal fouls. On paper, that's pretty disappointing for a player who prides himself on being a defensive difference maker. Those box score stats, however, barely tell the whole story.
For a 22-year-old second-round pick, Koloko actually looked pretty stellar defensively Sunday night. He was communicating, calling out switches, and in position more often than not. When one of his teammates got beat on the perimeter, it was Koloko who slid over, deterring the shot, and forcing the kickout pass, allowing the Raptors to recover.
"Just being down there, it's a difference having a seven-footer ... versus when we play small," Fred VanVleet said of Koloko. "Sometimes you just gotta be there to scare people and he definitely has the ability to do that."
It's the shots that don't happen that Koloko deserves credit for. When Clarkson beat Jeff Dowtin Jr. in the third quarter, Koloko stepped over, walling off what would have been an easy layup, and forcing a kick-out pass to Collin Sexton.
"He's making some plays. Doesn't really make a lot of mistakes," Raptors coach Nick Nurse told reporters in Edmonton. "(He) has a good understanding of what he's doing and one of the things I like about him is he's got a pretty good engine for work each day and that's really important. I know I say that a lot, but not everybody has that capacity to work that hard and he does. If you have that, that almost always equals getting better quickly."
The Raptors aren't going to ask a lot of Koloko this season. He's still limited offensively and he's going to have to get stronger before the league's best players are shying away from attacking him inside. That being said, Koloko gives Toronto a look it didn't have last season. Now the Raptors can really get aggressive defensively knowing opposing teams have to think twice when they begin to pound the paint.