Even with additions of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, it’s the improved play of Pascal Siakam that has changed the game for the Toronto Raptors this season.
The last couple months of Toronto Raptors coverage have all been about how the recent changes to the Raptors roster, in particular with the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. However, Pascal Siakam has proven that we should be watching him as well.
Kawhi’s good. Danny’s good too. But Pascal has brought something new to this Raptors team. He seems to be improving with every year that goes by.
In year one of his NBA career, Siakam started 38 of 82 games, averaging 15.6 minutes, 4.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 0.3 assists per game. He was starting at a time where the Raptors were in desperate need of a power forward. Siakam was so raw, that the Raptors were still hoping to get someone better; in came Serge Ibaka, which led to Siakam losing playing time.
Jumping to year two, Siakam was occupying more of a bench role. As a bench option, he played a major factor in the unit’s success last season. He was averaging five more minutes per game, along with increased averages of 7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game.
We are now in year three of Siakam’s career, and he is back in a starting role. With Nick Nurse’s new coaching system, he has placed all his confidence in Siakam to play the power forward, and thus Siakam has started all but one of the Raptors 11 games. He is close to averaging a double-double in the first 11 games this season (11.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 2.2 APG), and this is just the beginning.
It may be early in the season to judge whether Siakam will be able to consistently put up these numbers for the Raptors, but he is off to a great start. The Raptors now have all their starters averaging double digits. This provides a consistency they lacked last season. This consistency has given the Raptors the franchise’s best start at 10-1 (tied for 1st overall in the league so far).
At the beginning of the season, everyone seemed so certain that OG Anunoby would be starting at power forward. Instead, Siakam has since proven why the starting role should be his. This is less based upon their skills as players, and rather due to how they fit within the starting lineup.
Pascal has the consistency the Raptors need. His speed has allowed the Raptors to play at a faster pace with him on the court, especially while using Serge at centre.
Along with Kawhi and Danny, Siakam has given the starting lineup a much-needed boost. So far this season, the starting lineup has produced an Offensive Rating of 117.3 and a Defensive rating of 91.3.
If Siakam keeps up this production throughout the rest of the season, the Raptors will have found their power forward, a position they have had trouble filling the last couple years (since Serge has proven to play better at the 5).
One improvement that needs to be made in Siakam’s game is his three-point shot, as he is shooting only 18-percent from deep.
But even then, this isn’t an urgent issue that needs to be addressed. The Raptors have four other capable shooters in their starting lineup. Siakam’s playmaking allows him to initiate the offense and kick the ball out to one of his many capable teammates.
Despite the lack of progression in his jumper, he is improving in all other aspects of his game. He’s developed a beautiful spin move in the post, is an excellent interior passer, and now is even trusted to bring the ball up the court.
The Raptors are thriving, and Siakam, who only starting playing basketball a couple of years before he was drafted, continues to show this type of development, then the Raptors are in for something really special.