Former Toronto Raptors star DeMar DeRozan proclaimed that Pascal Siakam can be the greatest player in franchise history. How true is that sentiment?
After nine seasons with the Toronto Raptors, DeMar DeRozan built a legacy and earned himself a seat at the roundtable of the greatest ever players in franchise history. He's joined by the likes of Vince Carter, Kyle Lowry, and Chris Bosh. Those four players are undoubtedly on the Mt. Rushmore of Raptors greats.
After that, the list is pretty open, but according to DeMar DeRozan, Pascal Siakam has the formula to join the list of great players. In fact, DeRozan thinks Pascal Siakam can surpass everyone and become the best player in Toronto Raptors history.
The two recently had a quick catchup on Instagram Live; they spoke about everything from their time spent together on the Raptors to their anticipation over getting back onto the court. With the league currently on hiatus due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the chances of it happening any time soon are slim.
Still, that didn't stop the two discussing basketball and that's when DeRozan dropped the bomb that Pascal Siakam can surpass Kyle Lowry as the greatest Toronto Raptor of all-time. That's right, folks, DeRozan agrees that Lowry is the best player in franchise history.
Siakam is currently on his way to superstardom and averaged 23.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game, shooting 46-percent from the field and 36-percent from three in his fourth season in the NBA. Just one season earlier, he was crowned the NBA's Most Improved Player and won a title with the Raptors.
It'll take some time, but can Pascal Siakam become the greatest player in franchise history, and if so, how will he achieve such a feat?
This is probably the easiest one to account for, but all-time greats usually spend quite a while with their teams. It's rare where a player comes in for a season or two and is really able to put his stamp on the team in such a way that he's considered a franchise great.
It happened with Kawhi Leonard after he led the Raptors to their first-ever NBA title last season - Leonard's lone season north of the border, but that, as we said remains a very rare circumstance. After that, you can't really name too many players that have accomplished that sort of feat.
As it stands, three of the Raptors big five are in the top five in franchise history for games played. DeMar DeRozan (675 games), Kyle Lowry (549 games), and Chris Bosh (509 games) are three of the Raptors top five with Morris Peterson and Jose Calderon occupying the third and fourth spots on the list.
For what it's worth, Vince Carter, the Raptors' first real superstar, is tenth on the list with 403 games played. While he doesn't stack up to Bosh, DeRozan, and Lowry in games played, he did still spend seven successful seasons with the Raptors - but injuries curtailed his progress at times.
In the world of sports, spending that long with one team is a rare occurrence, especially now. Siakam is currently in his fourth season with the Toronto Raptors and has just signed a four-year extension that will keep him under contract until the 2023-24 NBA season. By then, that will be his eighth season with the team.
In that time, Siakam will likely go through all the highs and lows that most basketball players go through. If he stays with the Raptors, his bond with the fans will only grow stronger, and as the face of the franchise, he is bound to replicate his production on the court.
It can't all just be about longevity. Otherwise, Udonis Haslem would be considered the greatest Miami Heat player of all-time. That's no disrespect to Haslem, who has spent his entire 17-year NBA career with the Miami Heat, playing in 857 games in the process, but his accomplishments don't necessarily stack up with the likes of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
The majority of a player's greatness comes from what they actually do on the court - as an individual and as a team. For now, let's just stick to individual success and accolades. While they don't matter as much team success, it's still a big part of basketball and, after all, every team objectively needs a best player.
Siakam's rise to stardom has been uncanny and unprecedented. In just four short years, he's gone from a sporadic role player without a functional game to one of the stars of the NBA. Along the way, he's become an NBA champion and the NBA's Most Improved Player in the NBA last season.
In the 2019-20 NBA season, Siakam was on fire, averaging 23.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game, shooting 46-percent from the field and 36-percent from deep. Out of all the aforementioned stars of the Toronto Raptors, only Vince Carter averaged more points per game than Siakam in his fourth season.
Carter averaged 24.7 points, while Bosh and DeRozan put up 22.6 points and 18.1 points respectively. Lowry isn't featured on that list because the Raptors didn't draft him, but in his fourth season in Toronto, he averaged 21.2 points per game.
All four players went on to have higher scoring averages with the Raptors, and while that isn't any indication that Siakam will do the same - his progression is far less linear - it's increasingly likely that he will continue to improve at the helm.
If that's the case - or even if Siakam continues to put up similar production for the Raptors - then it's likely that he will firmly shoehorn himself into the debate for the greatest player in franchise history.
Siakam's consistency has wavered at times in the 2019-20 NBA season, but to expect him to out and put up 30 points on a nightly basis is setting your expectations far too high. Even at 25, it's only his first season as the Raptors' primary option. There will be hiccups but he will get better.
Who knows, Siakam could easily be averaging 26 points a night next season. Either way, this sort of individual production gets you into the conversation, but team success adds to it.
Like we said before, it can't just be the individual success that propels a player to the title of the greatest player in franchise history. At some point, those performances need to translate to winning - otherwise, you're just putting up empty stats.
That's what makes the crop of the greatest players in franchise history stand out: they have all lifted the Raptors to some of the best moments in franchise history. Right now, that's what definitively makes Kyle Lowry the greatest player in Toronto Raptors history.
He's done it all.
Lowry has had individual success - he's a six-time NBA All-Star, the most in Toronto Raptors history - he's been with the team since 2012 and, last season, he was an integral part of the Raptors team that won its first-ever NBA title. That's the perfect formula. Lowry is the heart and soul of the Raptors and centric to everything they do and he fully impacts the team's success.
Like DeMar DeRozan said: Pascal Siakam has the formula to surpass Lowry. The Raptors, while not equipped with an All-World talent like Kawhi Leonard, are still one of the best teams in the NBA. There is every chance that they could have repeated as champions this season.
With Siakam leading the team, the Raptors are set up to be successful for the foreseeable future, even once the likes of Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and co. move on. The team is young and blessed with talent, and once Siakam fully settles into his role as the face of the franchise, the Raptors will be in an even better position.
It's likely he'll continue to put up points on a nightly basis, and hopefully, he won't be going anywhere any time soon. Add that on to a winning culture and in a few year's time, Siakam could firmly be in the discussion for the greatest player in Raptors history.
Whatever happens, the Raptors have one of the NBA's top players locked in for a few more seasons - it's going to be a wild ride regardless, so strap in.