The Toronto Raptors will only go as far as Pascal Siakam takes them this year, as the Cameroonian big man will be entrusted with replicating his All-NBA season from a year ago. Of course, Siakam may not have made All-NBA without Nick Nurse leaning on him to a frankly absurd degree.
Siakam led the league in minutes per game last year at just under 38 per contest. He played over 40 minutes 27 times last year. While this was needed to pull out close wins against contenders, it’s also a sign that Toronto leaned too heavily on one or two standout players in crunch time.
Siakam, much like Fred VanVleet, is going into this season surrounded by a tremendous cast of emerging young stars in Gary Trent Jr. and Scottie Barnes. While this should, in theory, ease the burden Siakam has on him right now, he doesn’t seem to believe that this plan will be enacted in the regular season.
The Raptors will go into the season intending to make sure Siakam doesn’t get overwhelmed with an overdue burden of minutes, but Pascal seems very skeptical of that plan. You just know Nick Nurse is going to break out old reliable whenever the going gets tough.
Will the Toronto Raptors give Pascal Siakam a rest?
The Raptors will likely run a nine-man rotation this season, with Trent and Barnes taking on bigger roles. While the same bench from last year was brought back essentially unchanged, the addition of Otto Porter Jr. will be a valuable move for Toronto.
Part of the reason Nick Nurse used shortened rotations was the fact he had slightly above zero confidence in his bench. After Dalano Banton, standout rookie Christian Koloko, and Justin Champagnie earned his trust in the preseason, Nurse might be a bit more flexible in this area in the name of preserving Siakam.
From December 26 onward, Siakam’s per game averages were just under 24.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game. While it seems foolish to go into the season leaning on a philosophy that features him less, Toronto needs to be aware of the danger that comes with overworking him.
Siakam is such a valuable Raptors asset for the next half-decade that they need to take every opportunity to avoid putting an unnecessary burden on him. While the bench might not be great, and there will be some 40-minute nights from Pascal, the Raptors will try to show the skeptical Siakam that they will take care of him.