You never know for sure if a young player is going to step up when their opportunity knocks. The Charlotte Hornets certainly didn’t think Bismack Biyombo would be setting new career bests this early in the season or they just might have not let him walk away in free agency to the Toronto Raptors for nothing at the end of his rookie contract.
Biyombo was already looking like a solid addition to the Raptors rotation when Jonas Valanciunas went down with a broken finger, but this young center has been better than expected in a starting role playing over 29 minutes a night as head coach Dwane Casey tries to steer his team through a slew of key early season injuries.
“We have a guy down, but on top of that the coach needs me to be on the floor to help the team defensively,” Biyombo said. “I think overall, I’ve had to do what I’ve had to do to help my team – and I did a pretty good job.”
No argument here, Biyombo has done an excellent job in Valanciunas’ absence.
Not known as a scorer, Biyombo has shot 58 percent from the field as a starter and he set a new career best with 15 points against the Lakers. Known as a rebounder and rim protector, the 23-year-old center has stepped his game as a starter in these areas as well, pulling down new a career high 18 boards against the Hornets in Charlotte and tying his career best in blocks with 7 in the same game.
Over his 13 starts, he has averaged 6.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.
Biyombo only averaged 19.4 minutes a game last season in Charlotte and as Valanciunas’ backup, he was only playing 16.8 minutes a night. The shift to being a starter almost doubled the minutes Casey has been forced to rely upon him for and this young center has taken it all in stride without a second thought. He has been able to give Casey virtually the same impact throughout his extended playing time as he gave as a reserve and that’s not something a coach can usually count on from a young backup.
“My condition always stays the same,” Biyombo said. “I am always in shape. I always stay in shape and I always make sure I don’t get too high, too low, keep it the same, keep my body weight the same and I have been very consistent with it over the past few years.”
At this point, no one should doubt him, Biyombo came to the Raptors in great shape.
When opportunity knocked, Biyombo answered and he is showing the self-confidence this young man has in his own game is well-deserved. Playing short-handed through the injuries to starters Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll hasn’t been easy for the Raptors, but it has provided opportunities for others to show they can handle a bigger role.
Biyombo has proven he can be that defensive center Casey needs to change momentum or get that key stop and he has earned more minutes even after Valanciunas comes back and reassumes the starters role. It’s fair to expect the career year for Biyombo is just getting going.