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NBA Orlando Magic Khem Birch

Canadian Shot Blocker Khem Birch Signs With The Magic

The Orlando Magic announced they have signed Canadian big man Khem Birch to a two year contract.

Birch (6’9”, 220, 9/28/92) played in Greece last season, appearing in 37 games (21 starts) with Olympiacos, averaging 7.3 ppg. and 5.6 rpg. in 18.0 minpg., while shooting 62.4 percent from the field.

After playing collegiately at both the University of Pittsburgh and UNLV, Birch declared for the 2014 NBA Draft and spent the 2014-15 campaign with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA G League, where he averaged 11.1 ppg., 9.5 rpg., 1.2 apg. and 1.8 blkpg. in 52 contests. He was named to the Futures All-Star Team in 2015.

A native of Montreal, Quebec, Birch has also played professionally in Turkey (2015-16) and is a member of the Canadian National Team.

Although Birch went undrafted in 2014, he was part of the ever growing wave of Canadian basketball players getting noticed by the NBA.

One of the best shot blockers in all of college basketball in his third season, Birch averaged a double-double with 3.8 blocks per game at UNLV and his collegiate success had a big impact on basketball in his hometown.

“It’s definitely a moment,” Birch said at a Raptors predraft workout in 2014. “The most Canadians ever in the draft, so it’s definitely a moment.

“There are a lot of young guys coming up (who are) my brother’s age of 14 years old and every time I do something, they like everything, so I have made a really big impact on Montreal basketball. I’m proud and hopefully I’ll keep it up. Right now it’s hockey, but watch, in the future, it’s going to be basketball. I can see it’s coming up.”

Expecting to go late in the second round of the NBA draft, Birch ended up with the D-League Sioux Falls Skyforce and then headed to Europe for the next two seasons. However, in hindsight, it was apparent before he left that he’d fit in today’s NBA style of play.

“Khem, he is so athletic and he’s got the length and the shot blocking and the rebounding,” Raptors director of scouting Dan Tolzman said in 2014. “He is an intriguing player because he is the type of player that the NBA is going to more – athletic, nimble types of bigs and he is right in that group.”

Josh Cohen in the Orlando Magic Film Room illustrates what Birch could potentially bring to the NBA today.

With his speed, athleticism and aggressiveness, Birch chases down opponents in transition and swats shots away. He also is a terrific help defender and will often slide over from the weak side to block shots.

Birch fits in very well in small-ball lineups because he has the lateral foot speed to stay in front of smaller, quicker perimeter players. In pick-and-roll scenarios, Birch doesn’t get intimidated by opponents trying to break him down off the dribble. He has the body of a power forward but the game of a center.

An intriguing prospect when he left college, the 24-year-old gets his second chance at making an NBA roster (he played six preseason games with Miami in 2014) after an impressive run to the Euroleague Final Four last season.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.