Can the Raptors really continue to build around Pascal Siakam?
While early-season overreactions are commonplace in the NBA, the Toronto Raptors looking nothing like the team that won a championship in 2018-19 and earned the No. 2 seed in the East last year has to raise some eyebrows both north and south of the border. Among the more worrisome trends is the poor play on the court and attitude off of it exhibited by Pascal Siakam, who is entering his second season as Nick Nurse’s main offensive weapon.
Siakam’s subpar play this season, headlined by a career-worst 39 percent field goal percentage and 3.7 turnovers per game, has been matched with controversial behavior off of it, as leaving the floor early after fouling out earned him a one-game de facto suspension from Nurse. Siakam has been floated as a potential trade piece in exchange for a superstar ever since the offseason began, and the start of 2020-21 hasn’t done much to convince the front office that he is still worth building the whole team around.
The Raptors could chase a superstar by dangling Pascal Siakam in trade talks.
Raptors fans who are being stubborn and refusing to even consider a Siakam trade must have selective amnesia, as trading a talented superstar on a squad that was starting to hit a wall is what landed them Kawhi Leonard and, later, a championship. Yes, Siakam has improved every year, but he is fast approaching the DeMar DeRozan doldrums, constantly producing despite the fact they likely aren’t No. 1s on a championship team.
This roster isn’t nearly as deep as prior Raptors teams, and the contracts handed out to Siakam and Fred VanVleet are a sign that Masai Ujiri expected one or both of them to make that leap to superstar and carry this team into the postseason. If Siakam keeps shooting at his career-worst clip, and the Rockets start to ask for too much in exchange for Harden once again, Toronto might need to sell him off in the hopes of getting a king’s ransom of players that can make this roster more balanced.
The Raptors have shown that can win with both a singular superstar shouldering most of the offensive and defensive burden and a motley crew of role players that can overwhelm opponents with depth. What they CAN’T do, however, is win with Siakam shooting this poorly and this frequently.
If any GM is crazy enough to trade Siakam after this sluggish start, it’s the guy who bailed on DeRozan and won a championship just a few months later. While Siakam could shut this all down by returning to his All-Star form from last season, he’ll need to reach new heights on the offensive end to totally quell the Harden trade buzz.