Analyzing Pascal Siakam’s Breakout Season for the Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

 It has been the year of Spicy P (or P-Sizzle) in Toronto. Pascal Siakam has improved his game this year for the Toronto Raptors, making him one of the NBA’s breakout players.

The Toronto Raptors could attribute many things to their success this season. Kawhi Leonard is playing at a high-level. Kyle Lowry has improved, taking a leadership role for the team. One could even point to Serge Ibaka and how he has elevated his play during the season. However, the biggest surprise this season has been the play of Pascal Siakam.

After starting in only five games last season, Siakam has started in all but one game this year and has become a critical piece for the Raptors on both sides of the floor. P-Sizzle’s (at least that’s what his teammates call him) impressive season wasn’t expected, but Raptors fans and players alike are glad it happened.

Sizzling Stats

Pascal Siakam’s year has been a major improvement from his first two seasons playing for the Raptors, and his stats back up that statement. He is currently averaging 16.4 points per game this season, a nine point jump from last season, where he only averaged 7.3 a game.

His three-point shooting has been one of his biggest areas of improvement. The explosive power forward is currently shooting 37 percent from behind the three-point line. That’s a 15 percent jump from the previous season. Siakam also has seen an increase in percentage when it comes to his field goal percentage (51 to 55 percent) and free throw shooting (62 to 78 percent).

What might go unnoticed about Pascal’s game is his effectiveness on the defensive side of the court. His length gives him the ability to guard almost every position on the floor, causing matchup nightmares for the opposing team. Averaging about a steal and a block per game, Siakam’s defensive abilities shouldn’t be slept on.

He has also improved as a passer, now getting close to three assists per game. That doesn’t seem like much, but having a big man in Siakam who can set up others makes head coach Nick Nurse’s job easier, as he now has multiple players to run his offense through.

Pascal’s full array of talents were on full display the night before the all-star break where he posted a career-high 44 points, along with 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. That has sparked him to play even better after the all-star break, averaging 18.5 points since the time off. With his improved play this season, he is playing a critical role for the Raptors who are looking to make a deep playoff run.

Jack of all trades

Pascal Siakam’s versatility within the Raptors is vital to their chances of getting to The NBA Finals. Offensively, his ability to drive to the bucket allows for kick-out opportunities for three-point marksmen like Danny Green and Kyle Lowry. He also makes timely shots on the perimeter, seemingly always draining that corner three-point shot when Toronto needs it the most.

His ability to spread the floor with his improved three-point shooting allows driving lanes for Kawhi and newly acquired Marc Gasol as well. Let’s not forget about his ability to push the pace when needed, which opens up opportunities for fast breaks buckets for himself or his teammates.

Defensively, he gives the Raptors added length, and when combined with Leonard, Lowry, Ibaka, and Green, it makes it a hard day for every position on the floor. His ability to guard positions 1-5 makes it easier when players have to switch for screens.

The versatility of Siakam on defense has proven to be extremely valuable, as he can be seen guarding the opposing team’s best scorer in some scenarios. Siakam’s defensive prowess takes some pressure of off Leonard, allowing him to use more of his energy on the offensive end.

The energy he provides is something teammates feed off of. Putting in maximum effort throughout the game on offense and defense not only makes him a headache for opponents, but it also provides a spark for the Raptors. This spark of energy he plays with is what defines the Raptors as a team; energy and effort which leads to inspired play on offense and defense.

Pascal’s raw numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page, but for the Raptors, it’s not just about the numbers. It’s also about the amount of intensity he brings to the game and the effort he plays with, and Spicy P (that’s another nickname he has) brings an enormous amount of both to the court.

His energy and effort paved the way for his emergence as a starter, and now the spark plug role he plays for Toronto is critical to their success.

Most Improved Player

Siakam’s play has been such an improvement, it puts him as the frontrunner for this year’s Most Improved Player award. If you pair his individual production along with how it has translated into team success, it’s no surprise why his name is in the conversation. From being a role player off the bench his last season, to becoming a starter in the next is no easy adjustment for any player, but Siakam has made that transition with ease.

The field for the most improved player is crowded this year, with many other players improving their play considerably from their last. Despite the crowded field, Siakam’s improvement stands out above the rest. His game hasn’t improved in one area, but in all areas, and that is something some of the other candidates can’t say about their own games. His team’s success only helps his cause, as voters should give Siakam a considerable amount of credit for how his play has impacted the Raptors this season.

Next. Can Patrick McCaw make the playoff rotation?. dark

Pascal Siakam has done the work in the offseason to improve his game and now he is enjoying the benefits. Keeping up this level of play will only help the Raptors when it comes time to make that deep playoff run, and it will also help out Siakam himself, as he can become one of those cornerstone pieces for this Raptors franchise.