Pascal Siakan is thriving in his third year with the Toronto Raptors. He’s averaging 15.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.0 steals. His shooting is efficient, and his energy is endless. In fact, some experts suggest he should be in this year’s All-Star game. Fans obviously also have noticed, because he’s currently ninth in the Eastern Conference’s front-court all-star voting.
Siakam has been a bright light in a successful Raptors’ season. At mid-point, the Raptors are third in the NBA in fast-break points, mostly because of Siakam's speed on the break. His body is like a wire, and he’s seemingly able to twist it into a multitude of shapes without losing control of the ball. His spin-o-rama is a thing of beauty.
Siakam’s Importance to the Raptors
Siakam is a key cog in the Raptors’ machine because he’s steady in a year when so many Raptors’ core players have gone down to injuries. He's played more games than anyone else on the roster. And, he's this season's leading candidate for Most Improved Player.
Siakam has been consistent all season, both in his play and in his presence on the court. He shows up every day, both because he works hard on the court and because he's actually on the court. He's only missed one game all season and has stepped in to replace a variety of players — playing small-ball center in place of teammate Jonas Valančiūnas or driving the ball up-court to take pressure off Kyle Lowry.
How Did Siakam Grow So Much In A Season?
Last season, Siakam was a key contributor off the bench. This year, he’s arguably the third-best player on a team whose sights are singularly focused on contending for an NBA title. He's been good on both ends of the court and is a big reason why the Raptors are currently only one of four teams to have both a top-10 offense and a top-10 defense.
Siakam’s growth can be attributed to the fact that he knows his strengths and sticks to them. His biggest strength is his motor: it’s always running. Second, as exciting as Siakam is, his game is simple. He only does two things on offense. He either shoots an open three from the corner or he attacks the hoop.
As simple as that might seem to defend, it isn’t. He’s mercury. He navigates the court so quickly that he’s tough to defend. If "tough cover" was defined in the Dictionary of Basketball, his picture would be by it. You can draw out how a defender should cover Siakam on paper, but doing it on the court – not so easy.
To make this all happen, Siakam has had to work hard to develop a reliable outside shot. He’s averaging 40.4 percent of his corner 3s. If that shot isn’t open, he doesn’t force it. He passes or cuts to the hoop. Being a perimeter threat allows that strategy to work. You can’t play off him: you can’t crowd him. He’s too good on the dribble.
If defenders close out on him on the three-point line, Siakam blows by them and finishes strong in the paint. Siakam's signature move is a drive-and-spin. It happens too quickly for big men to cover, and its impossible for smaller defenders to contest even if they have speed enough to keep up.
Siakam Fits the Raptors Game
Fortunately, Siakam has strong teammates in Lowry and Kawhi Leonard, Toronto's All-Star twosome. These all-stars high-assist years have much to do with Siakam’s ability to slash to the hoop. As well, Siakam's willingness to run the floor fits Lowry’s desire to push the pace and has helped Siakam become a top transition scorer. Only five other players in the league have faster break points this season.
With his size, speed and athleticism, Siakam fits today’s NBA game well. He can fill in at almost any position. He can switch on defense easily, covering small or large with skill and speed. His one-on-one coverage is strong.
Siakam also fits Raptor’s coach Nick Nurse scheme. Plus, he fits his teammates’ skills. Together, pairing with Lowry and Leonard both offensively and defensively makes the Raptors creative on offense and hard-nosed on defense. It obviously works for both Siakam and the Toronto Raptors.