29. Pascal Siakam
A fast ascension for Pascal Siakam, already at number twenty-nine in the beginning of his third season.
Drafted with the number 27 pick out of New Mexico State by way of Cameroon in the 2016 NBA Draft, Siakam’s reputation began to grow in the weeks building up to the draft. Primarily a defender with a high motor who could run the floor, any addition of an offensive wrinkle would be a nice element of his game. That’s exactly what has transpired over the last two seasons.
Siakam appeared in 55 games in his rookie season, starting in 38 of them before spending some time in the G-League and winning the Finals MVP as the Raptors 905 won the G-League Championship in 2017.
Some of the first few games weren’t an easy watch. Siakam was a raw prospect with obvious upside but was forced into a starting berth too early. The Raptors hadn’t yet traded for Serge Ibaka and had a glaring hole at power forward, Jared Sullinger even appeared for a brief spell before injuries reared their ugly head.
The 2017-18 season saw Siakam feature as one of the feel-good stories of the year. The fabled “Bench Mob”, consisting of Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, Pascal Siakam and the now departed Jakob Poeltl destroyed everything and everyone in their path, playing high-tempo basketball and running the floor into a space in our hearts.
Siakam has started the 2018-19 season in fine fettle, once again the starting power forward for the Raptors but this time his game is at a whole new level. Now a legitimate scoring option for Toronto, he has improved as a ball-handler and someone who can stretch the floor, which seemed beyond the bounds of possibility in his first two seasons.
This is just a small chapter of his Raptors career, but Siakam is taking all the right steps in my eyes.
Fun Fact: As of January, 2019, Pascal Siakam has the highest 2-point percentage of any Raptor ever.