Khem Birch, Power Forward/Center
Contract Status: 2 years/ $2.2 million
2016-17 stats: 62 games, 6.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 1.0 blocks, 65.5% FG, 63.6% FT
PER 36 stats: 62 games, 14.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 2.0 blocks, 65.5% FG, 63.6% FT
Khem Birch went undrafted out of UNLV. After a stint in the D-League Birch opted to play in Europe. In Birch’s first try at the NBA he was not quite ready to be a contributor. Add to the fact that the NBA was changing from traditional bigs like Birch to those who can stretch the floor, Birch had to go elsewhere. During his time in Europe Birch has matured and tweaked his game a bit to fit today’s NBA. One of the great qualities Birch possesses is his ability to switch onto smaller opponents. Being a big man in the NBA you must be able to play on the perimeter in space to be effective. Birch can do that with no problem and will be an asset to the Orlando Magic.
On the offensive end, Birch relies on put backs and cuts to the basket to get points. He has great hands and explosiveness to catch lobs and finish in traffic. All around Birch’s game is similar to Bismack Biyombo except Birch can catch the ball better. The Magic are deep at the power forward position so giving Birch a shot is just that. He has an opportunity to show he belongs in the league this time and will take advantage of it.
Strengths of Khem Birch
Khem Birch’s major strength is his defense. Birch is athletic enough to guard positions 3-5. The Orlando Magic have compiled a roster that is capable of comfortably switching at every position. When playing the pick and roll Birch is quick enough to hedge and recover to his man. He can also switch on picks and stay in front of the ball handler. Because of his long wingspan Birch stays on his feet not biting on pump fakes and still disrupts the shooter. With Birch on the court he not only give you versatility but he gives you shot blocking. His quickness and explosiveness coupled with his wing span gives him great timing to block shots.
On the offensive side of the ball Birch does his best work when cutting to the basket. His great hands allow for him to catch the ball cleanly in traffic and go up strong to finish. He will be great rolling to the basket and catching lobs on pick and roll situations. His explosiveness again allows him to out jump opponents and catch the ball at it’s highest point for the finish at the rim.
Weaknesses of Khem Birch
Khem Birch’s biggest weakness is his offensive game. Birch doesn’t have many post moves or the ball handling skills to make a play on his own. When receiving the ball in the post he tends to get moved off of his spot. The further away he gets from the basket the more difficult is is for him to put the ball in the hoop. The majority of his offense will come in transition and running to the rim for lobs and put backs. Birch does not have the skill set to stretch the floor as many teams look for today. However, Birch will not be asked to contribute more than his current skill set on offense. His primary focus will be defense and collecting rebounds.
Expectations for Khem Birch
With such a loaded front court (Nikola Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo, Aaron Gordon, Marrese Speights, Jonathan Isaac) it’s hard to envision Birch getting consistent minutes. Outside of Biyombo, all the other front court guys can contribute from the perimeter. Without a go-to scorer the Magic will need to score as a team. Having Birch on the court limits the options Orlando has to generate points.
Coming off a stint in Europe Birch will be motivated to stay in the NBA. If he can show a consistent motor and a knack for shot blocking and rebounding he may take time away from Bismack Biyombo. Biyombo and Birch have the same skill set on offense and defense. Birch has a slight edge in his ability to play defense on the perimeter and he catches the ball better on offense. That is his key to getting time over Biyombo. With Biyombo we know that he will come ready to play and give 100% every night. Birch has to show that level of commitment and tenacity to earn time on the court.
Projected 2017-18 position: Reserve Power Forward/Center