Photo credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images
As university students slowly receive their final marks for their classes, we here at The Raptors Insider decided to grade the players of the Toronto Raptors.
From May 18th to June 3rd we’ll be releasing a report card for a Raptors player, giving our opinion on their individual performance.
Pascal Siakam’s sudden rise to stardom in the NBA has left fans around the league wanting and expecting more. After signing a four-year, nearly 137 million dollar extension with the Raptors last offseason, the expectation is that Siakam would continue to take the necessary steps to improve his game and become the team’s franchise player.
In addition to playing a crucial role in the Toronto Raptors 2019 championship run, Siakam put the league on notice when he was given the Most Improved Player Award. The very next season, after Kawhi Leonard left Toronto, Siakam took the lead role and was selected as a starter in the 2020 NBA All-Star game.
Soon after, the pandemic hit and Siakam was not able to find that same rhythm and touch during the NBA’s bubble restart in Orlando, Florida for the conclusion of the 2019-2020 season.
With high praise comes high expectations, and while Siakam turned in a solid 2020-2021 season, he struggled to improve from last season and still he didn’t develop his game enough to firmly take the keys as the team’s franchise player.
Siakam’s stats weren’t much different from last season. A few areas like assists, field goal and free throw percentage marginally improved, while his scoring, rebounding and blocks were just slightly down from last season. Let’s have a deeper look at how Siakam did this season.
Any player that averages over 20+ points per game in the NBA is without a doubt a very talented scorer. But Siakam’s points per game were down a point and a half compared to last season, his three-point percentage dropped by almost six percent, and at times he really struggled in late-game clutch situations.
A lot of games went down to the final seconds this season and the Raptors regularly turned to Siakam for a late game bucket. In Siakam’s defence, several of the shots below went in and out and were solid looks that created for himself. Call it bad luck if you want to, but these are all makeable shots that we expect Siakam to convert.
Additionally, Siakam struggled with his late-game decision-making at times and he needs to be more decisive with the game on the line. Back on April 11th, the Raptors mounted a big comeback against the New York Knicks and even had the chance to tie the game with less than 15 seconds to go. Kyle Lowry got the steal, gave it to Siakam on the fast break, and he double dribbled while struggling to decide on passing to Gary Trent Jr. for a corner three or taking it to the rim himself.
Scoring and Playmaking
On a positive note, Siakam did show flashes of offensive brilliance this season. Siakam brought his A-game in a crucial contest against the Wizards (which the Raptors lost in overtime) tying a career-high in scoring with 44 points.
Siakam’s assists per game numbers jumped from 3.5 to 4.5 this season, and that’s an encouraging sign for a player that will be expected to not only make plays for himself but find easy baskets for his teammates for the years to come. Siakam even set his career-high for assists in a single game earlier this season with 12 dimes against the Sacramento Kings.
Siakam’s defensive numbers stayed relatively the same this season, with solid averages of 1.1 steals and 0.7 blocks per game.
While some fans may say he is an underrated defender, really Siakam has the potential to be an elite defensive player with his size and athleticism.
At this point it’s still expected that OG Anunoby will guard the opposing team’s best player, and as the team’s prospective franchise player of the future, it would be nice to see Siakam get to that same level of one-on-one defensive ability.
Not only does Siakam set a great example on the court through his hard work and dedication, but he is also a model citizen off the court. This past Mother’s Day, Siakam bought his mom a new home and the moment went viral when it was shared on social media.
Siakam tragically lost his father in a car accident back in 2014, he has supported and provided for his family in so many amazing ways, this is just the latest example.
Sure, Siakam didn’t improve or make a leap like he did in the prior couple of seasons this time around, but he still remains the Raptors’ most important building block for the future. No one on the team really had a great season, and you can’t blame them considering all that happened this year.
Siakam is still a very humble and hardworking individual, and fans have come to expect him to improve his game every season. I think I speak for all of us when I say that I am still very excited to see what the 27-year-old has in store for next season after a full off-season of hard work.