Pascal Siakam is the best player on the Toronto Raptors. He’s the team’s most decorated player, their sole All-Star, team leader in scoring, an MIP, and an NBA Champion. The numbers, the eye test, and the accolades all point to Siakam being the face of this franchise. Why has there been so much pushback from non-Raptors fans about his potential?
Since the pandemic first hit in March of 2020, Siakam’s station as the top dog in Toronto has been called into question. If you remember back, during the first half of that 2019-20 season Siakam was operating at the level of an MVP candidate.
That fall and into the winter, Pascal was putting up 25 points, four assists, and eight rebounds every night, all while shooting 39% from 3-point land. He was leading his team to one of the best records in the NBA, proving he wasn’t just stat-padding.
Since then, Siakam’s star has dimmed. After suffering a lower leg injury and having the regular season put on pandemic pause, Siakam had a rough 2020 playoffs. Particularly in the second round, where he was held to 15 points per game on 38% shooting and 17% from deep by the Boston Celtics’ frumpy frontcourt duo of Grant Williams and Semi Ojeleye.
Siakam’s struggles scoring continued into the 2020-21 season, particularly the perimeter shooting. which plummeted to 29.7%. True, the entire Raptors team was having to cope with the season from hell. Playing in Tampa, the injuries, not to mention the entire COVID-19 experience. It wasn’t easy for any team, Spicy-P’s struggles stood out even among his teammates.
Siakam’s numbers and dynamics on the court dipped, he missed time, he missed the All-Star game, the team missed the playoffs, and all behind its worst regular-season record in nearly a decade.
Even with all that, he has all of the ingredients needed to really cement himself as a star this season. One way or another, 2021 is going to be a pivotal year for his standing within the league.
Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam can cement his star status in 2021-22.
Siakam’s upward trajectory was consistent for his first four years in the league, but coming off this latest injury (shoulder surgery that will sideline him for the early parts of the 2021 season) this will be a very important year in projecting the direction for the rest of his career.
He’s 27 now, the age that by which time most NBA players have found their stride and rounded into their prime. Not that this season is the be-all-end-all for Siakam. His basketball learning curve is anything but conventional. Still, can we count on another leap like the one he took his MIP season?
Siakam can still get better over these next few years, but how he performs this year will give both the team and the fans a sense of what level or star Pascal is truly capable of being.
If he can go back and reach the heights he did the first half of the 2019-20 season, we could be looking at more All-Star teams, All-NBA selections, and potentially the best player on a competitive playoff team. For a Toronto Raptors team looking for stability and quality in the post-Kyle Lowry era, Siakam could be a fixture that the team builds around.
If not, he may be treading water as a near-All-Star for the rest of his prime.
And that’s not a bad thing! Think about the number of near-All-Stars or barely-All-Stars that have had exceptional NBA careers. Players like Mike Conley, DeAndre Jordan, and Antawn Jamison. Players who were vital contributors to some special basketball teams.
Siakam has already proven himself to be that. He was already one of the stars of a title team. The big question surrounding him is if he can take the step from star to superstar.
That’s why this season is so important for his status and his legacy in the NBA. If he doesn’t prove soon that he can be more than a strong No. 3 option on a title team, a No. 2 option on a very good team, or the top scorer on a bad team, then that’s all he’ll ever be.
2021-22 will show the Toronto Raptors if they have a star, superstar, a near-star on their hands once and for all, and then the front office can act accordingly.