After Kawhi Leonard left before the start of the 2019-2020 season, it was clear that someone on the Raptors would have to pick up a heavier offensive load. Most of the media had written Toronto out of contention, some even projected them outside of The Playoffs. Despite those hot takes, the Raptors perserved and did more than just make the playoffs, grabbing the 2nd seed before the restart. It reminds me of a Stephen A Smith quote from the 2019 Eastern Conference finals: “Well what I watched the Toronto Raptors do, mainly lead by coach Nick Nurse and obviously the star player that is Kawhi Leonard is make all of us including myself look like absolute positive idiots”. The Raptors have to work harder in 2020 to make the media look like idiots again. There is one lynchpin to that entire plan, and that is Pascal Siakam.
Let me start off by saying this: Siakam is without doubt a top tier All-Star. Siakam is a combo forward who is able to do absolutely anything on the basketball. He can defend, shoot, run the floor and create for himself. You won’t see him necessarily posterize anyone, but he can dunk and finish wacky layups. Siakam is a unicorn. Siakam won Most Improved Player in 2019: but it was clear that he could take his game further. He succeeded, as evidenced by his first All-star selection and improved stats across the board: 23.6/7.5/3.6 on 45.9 % from the field with 35.9% from three (league average). His improvement came in his ability to create more for himself outside of the ark. Siakam can now shoot threes above the break, and has increased the amount of 3s he’s taking, shooting about 6 a game compared to the 2.7 from last year. It also seems that he has worked on his midrange, and that aspect of the game has come out more this year, with a new arsenal of moves from the midrange. Siakam is clearly an all-around top-tier All-Star.
Siakam: Untapped Potential
This statement might be controversial. But here goes: Siakam can do around 90% of what someone like Kawhi Leonard can. He can create for himself and others, and lockdown on defense when he really wants to. However, it is that 10% that matters. Someone like Kawhi or Kevin Durant have that extra gear. For Siakam that extra 10% involves being consistent, showing up when it matters and being able to fully put the team on their back despite who’s guarding them. Let me be clear: Siakam is still a clutch player. He’s hit game winners. But can he do it with the weight of the team on his shoulders? Can he score bucket after bucket when the rest of his team can’t find their offense? Siakam has struggled with longer defenders such as Jonathan Isaac and Giannis Antetokounmpo preferring to hunt mismatches instead. If he gains the ability not to JUST score, but score consistently on anyone, then he is right on track to become a superstar.
That extra “10%” is the key between Pascal Siakam going from another good All-Star to a leaguewide superstar. With his budding abilities, he can truly be one of the best. One can argue that Siakam has already become a superstar: The Raptors are 2nd in the East despite being bogged down with injuries. However, that was more of a team effort: 6 players on the team have averaged double digits this season. Siakam’s rise is clearly the reason for the Raptors’ continued success in the regular season. Despite that, legends are forged in the fire of the playoffs, not the regular season. As such, I hope that Siakam can find that extra gear and become the homegrown superstar that we’ve always wanted this coming postseason.