He is known for his jarring screens and hustle. Teammates love playing with him for his selflessness and willingness to sacrifice for his team. So much of what Khem Birch does will not show up in a box score.
Birch is averaging career highs across the board with 7.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in 21.7 minutes per game. He is shooting a career-best 5.5 field goal attempts per game after averaging 3.0 attempts per game in each of his first three seasons.
In his fourth season in the NBA, everything seems to be coming together for Birch, who looks more comfortable offensively. This season, he is putting the ball on the floor more and attacking off the dribble.
Khem Birch has changed his mindset, looking to score rather than just collecting putbacks. That has boosted his offense and made him more valuable to the Orlando Magic.
Birch has gone from a player who was a non-factor on offense, into someone looking to score. As Birch describes it, he has changed his mindset this year. He is not merely hoping to get the chance to score when he enters the game. But rather, he is looking to score.
Against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Birch drove to the basket and euro-stepped into the lane, drawing a foul. A display of his improved ability to create on offense. In the loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, Birch got the ball and hit a floater off the dribble.
These were not moves Birch did before this season. It was not even something Birch would attempt to do or have in his mind.
His best game of the season came against the Boston Celtics last week. He scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, including seven offensive rebounds. The Orlando Magic struggled offensively but Birch provided the team some much needed second chance opportunities.
But that is what makes Birch so impressive. He has added little bits to his offensive game so he can be a more viable weapon and stay on the floor. But he still does all the things he is well-known for well.
Khem Birch has a 12.0-percent offensive rebound rate, leading the team in that category among rotation players (Mohamed Bamba has the actual lead in a smaller sample size). Attacking the offensive glass has been a main focus for the team to try to steal some extra points and possessions.
Birch also remains one of the best screeners in the league. According to NBA.com’s tracking data, Birch averages 4.8 screen assists per game, good for eighth in the league overall and second among players playing less than 25.0 minutes per game. He ranks sixth with 8.0 screen assists per 36 minutes.
This is a big boost to the offense. And having him being more of a threat to score creates some spacing and an additional threat defenses have to consider.
This offense certainly needs all the help it can get.
Both his teammates and coach have praised his improved play this season.
Birch has separated himself from backup center Bamba. And has made it hard for Steve Clifford to give any other big man minutes over him.
Now the first man off the bench, Birch has become a key piece for the Magic. His offensive outburst has made him significantly more valuable.