Toronto Raptors: Pascal Siakam is key to keeping Kawhi Leonard

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

 Kawhi Leonard’s free agency decision will be one of the most important moments in Toronto Raptors history.  If they want him to re-sign, the Raptors need to sell Leonard on a future with Pascal Siakam.

Will Kawhi Leonard stay with the Toronto Raptors beyond this season? Nobody really knows. Leonard himself may not even be sure yet, and that’s okay.

Signing an NBA contract anywhere is a big commitment, and as the only Canadian-based NBA franchise, the Raptors have historically had trouble enticing free agents to commit to them. In many ways, the Raptors’ odds seem to be stacked against them.

There are those who draw comparisons to Paul George’s surprise re-signing in Oklahoma City, but those circumstances were different.  Oklahoma City may not be Los Angeles, but it’s much warmer than Toronto with lower taxes.

Paul George was also heavily recruited by Russell Westbrook, who literally threw a party to convince him to stay. While I don’t think there’s any bad blood between Leonard and his Raptors teammates, I can’t imagine any of them throwing a party for him.

Despite all this, the Raptors do have one big advantage over the league’s other 29 teams.

For a team to convince Leonard to sign a long-term deal, they’ll need to show him that they have a reason why they can compete for an NBA title over the next 5-8 seasons.  If you’ve been watching this season, you’ll know that the Raptors already do.

His name is Pascal Siakam, and he’s only going to get better.

Siakam’s breakout season as the front-runner for Most Improved Player has come at the perfect time for the franchise.  While in Toronto, Leonard has watched Siakam hit threes, distribute the ball, make game winners, and dunk on people’s heads.

Siakam is only 24 years old, and if we’re going by historical standards he’s still about 3-4 years away from his prime.

He’s already one of the best forwards in the Eastern Conference. Earlier this season, he was given serious consideration for his first All-Star appearance. Next season, it’s hard to picture him missing it.

Pairing Siakam and Leonard would give the Raptors the best forward combo in the conference and perhaps even the league.

Siakam and Leonard combine for an absolutely lethal combination on both ends of the floor.  They are both long as heck, versatile, switchable defenders, and have proven that they can score on just about anyone.

If Leonard truly cares about winning above all else, then walking away from a future with Siakam is the last thing he would want to do.

Leonard may be a character that the NBA isn’t used to dealing with.  He’s extremely quiet and reserved and doesn’t exactly embody what most people picture as an NBA star.  However, like all the greats, he’s a basketball player first, and competing at a high level is what he cares about most.

Next. Does Marc Gasol need to score more?. dark

In the end, it’s safe to say that he will go where he has the best chance to win. Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka might be gone as early as the end of next season, so it’s hard to sell Kawhi on many future aspects of this team.

What can work is the promise of a future with Leonard and Siakam on the wings, with point guards, big men, and glue guys being rotated in and out. That’s a scary squad for a long, long time.