Toronto Raptors: The case for/against Pascal Siakam winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player

Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Pascal Siakam’s improvement has been a big reason for the Toronto Raptors successs this season. What are his chances at winning the Most Improved Player?

Fans of the Toronto Raptors know that the Most Improved Player (MIP) is not a consolation award, a participation ribbon, or an award given out to nice guys who try their hardest. It’s an award given out to incredible talents who have put in considerable work in the off-season to improve several facets of their game. 16 of the 33 recipients have gone on to be All-Stars.

The award is given to the player who has shown the most progress during the regular season over previous seasons. Past winners include Victor Oladipo, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler, all perennial all-stars. Other notable winners include former Raptors Tracy McGrady, Jalen Rose, Hedo Turkoglu and Jermaine O’Neal, although no Raptor has ever won the award while in a Raptor uniform.

Might this year be the first time a Raptor brings home the award? Pascal Siakam has had an incredible start to the season and is certainly in the conversation. Although, him winning is certainly no guarantee as other players have shown their worth and have demonstrated significant improvement over previous years. Siakam clearly is someone who takes improvement in his game very seriously:

"“My goal has always been about getting better,” Siakam said. “If you look at me from freshman year in college to sophomore year, the improvement is crazy. That’s something I always try to make sure I do every year. Go out and work on my game, and make sure the next year I become better.”"

So, here’s our case for/against Siakam winning the prestigious award:

The Case For Siakam Winning the Award:

Pascal Siakam was scoring 7.3 points per game last year and he’s now at 15.2 points per game. He’s doubled the amount of field goals he’s making per game and he’s doing it against the starters on the opposing team each and every night. That’s an incredible jump in production in one year.

The Case Against:

Yeah, but he’s also had his minutes increased from 20.7 to 30.9 MPG. That’s ten more minutes per game. A scoring increase was bound to happen. He’s attempting four more field goals per game. And sure you’re going to be playing against the opponent’s best guys, you’re also going to be playing with your best guys. We all agree the Bench Mob was an effective group and fun to watch last year, but are you telling me you’d rather play with Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell or Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard?

The Case For:

His field goal percentage has jumped nearly 7-percent!. He spent a lot of time in the gym this summer and worked on his handle. Just watch him. His ball handling and finishing skills are significantly better. His touch around the rim has developed at a level no one expected. His speed, length and ability to use either hand makes him near unstoppable when he attacks the basket and gives even the longest of defenders fits.

The Case Against:

Improvement is about perspective. Sure his percentage is up around the rim but his ability to drain jumpers from outside is still a deficiency in his game. His shooting percentage drops 30 points from outside of three feet from the basket. Sure his three-point percentage is up, but it’s still only at 33-percent.

The Case For:

Let’s compare Siakam’s overall line then to previous winners:

Siakam net difference: 7.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG,  .8 APG, .2 SPG, 6.4 FG%, 11% 3PT%, 16 FT%, 10.2 mpg

Here’s a look at previous winners:

Average MIP difference: 7.1 ppg, 1.4 RPG, 1 APG, 0.2 SPG, 2.3% FG, 3.3% 3PT, 3.8% FT, 5.9 mpg

The Case Against:

If we’re going to look at guys who have made considerable improvements from one year to the next, let’s look at De’Aaron Fox Sacramento. He’s the guy who should be taking this award home at the end of the year.

Net difference: 6.3 ppg, 0.7 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.8 SPG, 5.9% FG, 6.9% 3PT, 0.6% FT, 3.7 mpg

The Case For:

Okay, how about the fact that Siakam is an invaluable starter on a championship contending team? He is getting the best from the opponents each and every night who want to take down a top team. Opponents are now game planning for him. He doesn’t get nights off. And he’s still producing at a high level.

The Case Against:

You could probably make the case for Siakam returning to the bench and being as effective a contributor to this team. His playmaking skills would certainly benefit a bench that has dropped off significantly since he moved to the starting rotation. How can we put Siakam then in the same conversation as a guy like Fox who is invaluable to his team in the starting line-up?

The Case For:

Fox is playing on the Sacramento Kings. Sure they’re far superior this year, and yeah a lot of that has to do with Fox, but they’re hovering around .500. They’re not going to be a playoff team. They’re the Sacramento Kings.

The Case Against:

This is De’Aaron Fox’s award to win. He’s had a huge increase in his role and responsibility on a team that lacks the star power of the Raptors. He’s arguably the go to guy on the Kings right now. If he takes a night off, the Kings feel it more than the Raps do if Siakam has a bad game.

The Case For:

The Raptors are a +/- of +10.4 better when he’s on the court. He’s had career highs already in rebounds and points this year and he’ll be setting career playoff highs in the spring while Fox is sitting at home. Siakam is the Most Improved Player this year if he continues on his current trajectory.

Case for bonus:

Did you see that shot last night?

Next. Three types of trade targets for Raptors to look at. dark

All stats as of January 17, 2019. MIP comparative statistics from