Toronto Raptors: Looking at Siakam’s much improved playmaking this season

Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Pascal Siakam has now had three games with six assists or more this season, something he only accomplished three times total last season for the Toronto Raptors.

At the age of 22, not many teams considered Pascal Siakam at the 2016 NBA Draft. An age that many analysts and scouts like to consider too old to draft in the first round because they are believed to have little room for improvement. That didn’t stop the Toronto Raptors from selecting him 27th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft; a player many considered to be a high-motor guy with a low skill level who was projected as a mid second-round pick.

Five years later, Pascal Siakam is way more than just a high-motor guy. He has improved in every area you can imagine: from shooting, scoring, basketball IQ, defense, etc. This year Siakam has added yet another weapon to his arsenal: playmaking.

This was an area that was emphasized as soon as “Offensive-Guru” Chris Finch arrived as an assistant coach, according to Sportsnet.

"“I think he’s extremely dynamic. I think we can probably generate some more playmaking from him."

Siakam’s playmaking was on full display on Friday night against the Sacramento Kings, racking up a career-high 12 assists — four more than his previous career-high of 8 that he achieved this season also. Siakam was phenomenal in finding cutters, finding open three-point shooters, and just scanning the floor as a whole to make the best possible play. Often times in the past, Siakam was good at finding open man, but those passes were predictable and sloppy.

With Kyle Lowry out of the lineup yesterday, Pascal Siakam’s playmaking was needed more than ever. It’s fair to say he didn’t disappoint.

Siakam’s impressive playmaking against the Kings

This pass from Siakam was one of the more impressive ones, reading the floor as if it was a Dr. Seuss book.

As soon as the player guarding Terence Davis leaves to double-up on Siakam, the Kings are baiting Siakam into passing to Terence Davis and you can see that when Tyrese Haliburton (#0) instantly rotates to Davis instead of staying on Flynn. Siakam instantly reads that and makes the swing pass to Malachi Flynn instantly, leaving Haliburton in an awkward position between both.

The following is another pass where he does an excellent job of taking his time and scanning the environment before passing.

Siakam has two choices here: pass it to Norman Powell (which is what I was yelling at my computer screen for him to do) or hold it slightly longer causing Richaun Holmes (#22) to close in which would leave Terence Davis open. Siakam clearly ignored me and would go on to see a cutting Terence Davis that most of us didn’t even see right away.

Here is a bonus clip.

This was just one of those passes were all too used to seeing Kyle Lowry do. Siakam makes a perfect pass right into the hands of Terence Davis, a pass I feel that’d be less accurate a year or two ago.

How his improved playmaking helps the Toronto Raptors and himself

Last season in the bubble it seemed as if teams had Pascal Siakam solved. Clog the paint if he has the ball and that’ll either cause a turnover or a bad shot attempt. If Siakam is as good as a playmaker he has shown to be against the Kings, teams will have a harder time deciding what to do against Siakam.

Siakam is now aware players will be closing in on him in the low-post or when driving; this may limit his opportunity to score but it opens it up elsewhere. And if Siakam’s first instinct is to pass it to the open man when he’s getting the attention he wants (as he did against the Kings), this creates an ecosystem where the Toronto Raptors offense will have open looks from all over the court.

The only question is if he can do this consistently. He played the role of a creator heavily in the first two games, getting 6 and 8 assists in each; however, that would be followed by four games where he had only 7 total assists combined. It felt as if the Raptors had abandoned the plan of letting him create, despite showcasing his improvement as a playmaker in the first two games.

If the Toronto Raptors continue to let Siakam be the creator he can be (even with Lowry in the lineup) then this will help their poor offense tremendously moving forward — last night he was part of the Raptors scoring a franchise-record high 144 points in regulation.

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At the age of 26, Siakam continues to impress by adding yet another skill to his repertoire. Playmaking was always going to be the next step going into this season and now that he’s shown us what he can do, it’s about consistency from now on. If he can average around 6 assists and continue to be such a threat with the ball, then his game will be the most complete it has ever been in his still young NBA career.