Did The Warriors Ruin The Dynasty By Blowing The Draft? Part 5C: Losing Chris Boucher

We calculate how much to cry over this spilt milk

We laid out the constraints and boundaries of this analysis in the series master post, Did The Warriors Ruin The Dynasty By Blowing The Draft? An In-Depth Series. This also has links to all the articles in the series.

This is a bonus article, but an important one.

Ando asked:

Is there a way to include undrafted players (that later developed via free agency, G-League, etc.) in these analyses too?

You see this come up a fair amount, particularly when some player that went undrafted or unclaimed on waivers has a breakout game. “Why couldn’t the Warriors have picked that guy up?” The regret that really stings is when you actually had the player on your team, either on the roster or in training camp.

Let’s look at the players most mourned by Dub Nation that the Five Finals Warriors teams had in the organization, but let get away. We covered Gary Trent Jr and Kendrick Nunn, so next up is Chris Boucher.

Chris Boucher

Boucher and Jordan Bell were shot-blocking machines for the powerful Oregon Ducks NCAA team. But Boucher tore his ACL in March 2017 when a player fell on his leg. Jordan Bell slipped to the second round, as we have discussed at length, while Boucher went completely undrafted. This is understandable as torn ACLs tend to cost a player up to a whole year of recovery time and often they don’t get back to feeling normal until a year and a half later. Could a team in summer 2017 hang on to him long enough to see what he could become in September 2018?

The Warriors took a risk on him and signed him to one of the very first two-way contracts (just introduced in the NBA) on July 14 2017. He finally played for the Santa Cruz Warriors in January 2018, 9 months before he was supposed to be fully healed.

The Warriors announced on June 22 2018:

The 2018 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors have waived forward Chris Boucher, the team announced today. Boucher, who signed a two-way contract with the Warriors on July 14, 2017, appeared in one game for Golden State, making his NBA debut on March 14 vs. the Lakers. Boucher appeared in 20 games (eight starts) with the Santa Cruz Warriors in the NBA G League, posting averages of 11.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.10 blocks in 22.2 minutes per game.

He had so-so numbers as he worked his way back from injury. Perhaps most importantly, he was already 25 years old. So the Warriors decided they needed the two-way contract spot for someone else who was more likely to help the team.

Bob Myers said, of the new two-way contract spots:

"We’re still learning about the position," Myers said. "What’s the best way to utilize it? I think we learned that, for our team, we might need more guys that can step in and less development. That’s what we kind of have to figure out."

The Warriors ended up using their two-way contracts in Fall 2018 on Damion Lee, Alfonzo McKinnie and Marcus Derrickson. The first two ended up playing significant minutes during the 2019 playoff run (for better or worse), more than Boucher likely would have.

Boucher got picked up by the Raptors who signed him to an Exhibit 10 on July 20 2018 and then a two-way on October 12 2018. At this point, this was a year and a half after the ACL tear, and Boucher was supposed to finally be himself. And he proceeded to tear up the G-League. The Raptors 905 bragged:

Raptors 905 forward Chris Boucher has been named the 2018-19 NBA G League Most Valuable Player and the 2018-19 NBA G League Defensive Player of the Year.  He becomes the first player to win both awards in the same season.  The Canadian is also the first international player to earn MVP honors.

Boucher (6-11, 200, Oregon), who signed a two-way contract with the Toronto Raptors last October before having it converted to a standard NBA contract in February, averaged 27.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.1 blocked shots and shot 51.0 percent from the field in 28 games with Raptors 905.  Among players who appeared in at least 28 games, Boucher ranked third in scoring, sixth in rebounding and first in blocks.  Raptors 905 went 20-8 with him in the lineup and 29-21 overall.

TOR brought him up to the big leagues to end the 2018-19 season, where he played sparingly off the bench (5.8 minutes per game in 28 games, 4 Playoff Minutes).

In 2019-20, Boucher has steadily gained playing time and has played 12.9 MPG in 56 games. He’s shooting a chilly 28% from 3, but ESPN RPM likes him, rating him the #20 Power Forward in the league, though lower at #31 if you count playing time.

Boucher racked up 3.2 Win Shares this season and 0.6 Value Over Replacement Player. (Comparison Points: in 2018-19, Damion Lee had 0.7 WS, Alfonzo McKinnie had 2.1 WS, Jonas Jerebko had 3.3 WS).

And in the playoffs, Boucher chipped in 6.2 minutes per game across 7 games, mainly in garbage time, plus 4 Did Not Plays.

So Boucher still shows promise, and every time he has a highlight play, some Warriors fans gnash their teeth. But Boucher still has a lot to prove and he wasn’t going to contribute to the 2019 playoff run, so… you can’t hold on to every prospect forever, so the Warriors made a very reasonable move.

Warriors Move Grade: B

The Warriors drafted Boucher in Summer 2017 knowing he would be injured and subpar until Fall 2018. They ended up cutting him before Boucher could fully heal, seeing him as a prospect that was older, rehabbing a severe injury, and not doing well in the G-League, so not likely to contribute to the 2019 Playoffs in their Win Now mode. This is very likely true especially given that he didn’t contribute much in the *2020* playoffs either after his breakout.

History does support their judgment, as Boucher didn’t contribute much at the NBA level until the 2019-20 season. He’s now on track to be a good role player, so there is some regret, but I’m not sure the Warriors would do it differently, knowing this future.