Former Raptors star has been the best player in the playoffs thus far

Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors
Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

The Toronto Raptors don't get to compete in the playoffs this season, but a number of former players are out on the court fighting for their postseason lives. One in particular is having a dream start to his first playoffs without the Raptors and has been arguably the best player across all 16 teams.

The Indiana Pacers took a major step forward this season, with Tyrese Haliburton in the MVP conversation early this season before missing time with a hamstring injury. To bolster their chances at making a run both this season and beyond, the Pacers traded three first-round picks and veteran wing Bruce Brown to the Raptors for All-NBA forward Pascal Siakam.

Siakam has fit the Pacers like a glove. Indiana needed a secondary playmaker and shot creator, and Siakam thrives offensively alongside a stretch big -- be that Marc Gasol in 2019 with the Raptors or Myles Turner this season with the Pacers. Defensively he is a great fit with Aaron Nesmith at the forward positions and can be a weakside shot blocker to support Turner.

Siakam was a big part of the Pacers pushing up into the No. 6 seed in the East, avoiding the Play-In Tournament and getting a first-round matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks, who have been a wildly inconsistent team all season and have had to start the playoffs without their MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Pascal Siakam is unstoppable this postseason

Without Antetokounmpo the Bucks have had no answer for Pascal Siakam, who has put up two monster games to start the playoffs. In a Game 1 loss, Siakam was the only Pacers player ready for the bright lights of the playoffs, scoring 36 points on 60 percent shooting. Indiana rebounded to clobber the Bucks in Game 2 with Siakam again leading the way, dropping 37 points, 11 rebounds and six assists on 69.6 percent shooting.

Siakam had his share of big postseason moments for the Raptors, including key games in route to the 2019 title; he dropped 32 points, eight rebounds and five assists on the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. His playoff career-high before this season was 34 points.

The versatile forward beat his career-high in Game 1 this year and then beat it again in Game 2. His 36.5 points per game average was the most of any player through two games. The next three players on the list -- Damian Lillard, Joel Embiid and Luka Doncic -- are all shooting less than 50 percent from the field, while Siakam is shooting 64.6 percent. When you factor in his 12 rebounds and four assists on top of strong defense, no player has had quite the same impact as Pascal Siakam.

The Milwaukee Bucks have no answer for Siakam. Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton are way too small to guard him, but Brook Lopez has proven a touch too slow at this point in his career. Milwaukee is likely stuck putting Bobby Portis or Jae Crowder on him and bringing help, but that compromises their defense in other areas. The Bucks could use Antetokounmpo on offense, of course, but they desperately need him on defense.

The Pacers have now stolen home-court advantage in their opening-round series with the Bucks as the series heads back to Indiana tied at 1-1. If Giannis can't come back in the next few games the Pacers could pull off the upset, and it won't be because of their run-and-gun point guard; it will be because Pascal Siakam is the best player on the court, outplaying Lillard, Middleton and perhaps every other player in the playoffs.

Toronto fans can't root for their own team, but rooting for former players is the next-best thing. Game 3 is tonight at 5:30 PM ET on ESPN.

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