Raptors: Pascal Siakam’s passing is the key to MVP-caliber start

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - APRIL 18: Pascal Siakam #43 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - APRIL 18: Pascal Siakam #43 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Pascal Siakam has piled up assists like no other forward or center in Toronto Raptors history to start the season. Siakam has averaged 7.4 assists over the Raptors’ first seven games this season, which would make him the first Raptors forward or center to average six or more assists per game if the season ended today.

That hot streak continued during a dominant win against the Atlanta Hawks. While O.G. Anunoby stole the show with his expert defense on Trae Young, Siakam recorded 31 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists. He’s playing the best basketball of his life.

During a post-game interview after the Raptors’ 119-109 win against the 76ers on Oct. 26, a matchup in which the Cameroonian star recorded 13 assists and picked apart Philadelphia in the second half, Siakam talked about being more of a playmaker in the second half of that game.

“I think it’s reading the defense and making plays,” Siakam said. “I think just understanding the game a little bit more, being out there and seeing the passes a little bit more.” If he keeps this up, his boasts about wanting to be one of the five best players in the league won’t look so brash.

The Toronto Raptors are thriving due to Pascal Siakam.

The star forward averaged 5.3 assists last season, up from 4.5 the season before that. DeMar DeRozan averaged 5.2 assists in the 2017-2018 season for the Raptors, the previous high for a forward in Toronto.

Siakam gas averaged 26.1 points to go along with his 7.4 assists over the first seven games, one game against Cleveland and Brooklyn, two games against Miami and Philadelphia, and the Atlanta domination. The Raptors’ use of Siakam as a de facto point guard helped the offense hum without Fred VanVleet.

In his career, Siakam and the Raptors are 12-7 in games where he records at least eight assists. The Raptors have also never lost by more than five points when he dishes out eight dimes.

Will this continue?

Head coach Nick Nurse and Siakam’s teammates might be the ones who determine Siakam’s assist numbers at the end of the season. The recent uptick in 3-point shooting, specifically catch-and-shoot opportunities, shows that this could be a sustainable trend.

If teams try to focus their defense on stopping Siakam from scoring (based on what Pascal has shown this season), the only way he will end the season with less than six dimes per game is if his teammates get cold shots, Nurse takes the ball out of his hands, or an uncommon regression.

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