Naturally, everyone in Toronto is high on the potential of Pascal Siakam. This is always the overtly expressed emotion with regards to NBA draft picks for the home town team, both from management and the fans. We want these young guys to succeed.
Success for Siakam, a late first round pick (27th overall), is also, quite naturally, graded differently from players selected in the top 10, or top 3 (or second round, for that matter). For most Raptors fans, if Siakam showed flashes of hustle and heart, we’d be content.
But get a load of this: as per NBA.com’s Rookie Ladder, Siakam is considered one of the top ten rookies in the league right now.
The Ladder:— Scott Howard-Cooper (@SHowardCooper) November 23, 2016
7. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
Last week: Not ranked
While the Raptors clearly need to get better inside, and Lucas Nogueira has had an increased role off the bench in the big-man rotation the last couple weeks, Siakam remains the starting power forward for a 9-5 team and one of the best rookie grinders. He is fourth in blocks and rebounding, along with second in shooting percentage. He’s one of four rookies (Willy Hernangomez, Maurice Ndour and Juan Hernangomez) are the only ones shooting better than 50 percent, even if Siakam’s field-goal accuracy comes with the reality check that he isn’t in the top 10 in field goal attempts per game. Toronto’s other first-year big, Poeltl, has not played in five of the last six games.
Setting aside that slight of Jakob Poeltl (whose day shall come!), this is a stirring narrative for the Raptors’ young big man.
Siakam’s role in the rotation was never intended to be this prominent — and the Raptors’ starting lineup could conceivably be rejigged to make it better — but the point here is this: Pascal’s doing his best to produce and make it work. He’s doing the things we would have expected (e.g. the aforementioned hustle and heart), but better and for longer than we probably would have counted on.
There were a lot of good feelings surrounding Siakam when he was picked (out of semi-obscurity) by the Raptors. The story of his background is part of it. His personality adds something too. And now, after watching him play for a month, it doesn’t feel ridiculous (or homer-ish) to say the Raptors really do have something special here with Pascal. It’s cool to see him get that recognition from outside the Raptor bubble.
It’s Siakam’s first time in the Rookie Ladder and — even pending the eventual return of Jared Sullinger — I bet he’ll hang around.