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Player Preview: Pascal Siakam, even More Improved Player?

Pascal Siakam of the Raptors is coming off a season in which he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Is there anywhere left for him to go?

NBA: Toronto Raptors-Championship Parade Gerry Angus-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, you. Yeah, you. Take a look at that image up above. Remember that? Pascal Siakam and the Raptors are the defending NBA champions, you’ve probably heard. Wow, I’m still not sick of reading and/or writing that sentence.

Here’s another photo:

NBA: 2019 NBA Awards Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

This, my friends, is Pascal Siakam on the red carpet ahead of his Most Improved Player win at the NBA Awards. Look at those shoes! He’s so fresh. So, with two trophies in his back pocket, the expectations for this season are noticeable. Here we go: Welcome to the 2019-20 Pascal Siakam player preview.

Role on the Team

With Kawhi Leonard’s departure, the Raptors are now, in effect, Pascal’s team. This is his chance to play for a lucrative contract extension. And this is ESPN’s 22nd-best NBA player, which is something we obviously all care about immensely, especially given that in those same rankings Kyle Lowry was called oddly-shaped. But yeah, that first sentence says it all. Three years in a row, the Toronto Raptors have a new top dog. Time for some numbers.

In 21 games without Kawhi (the two both sat on March 30th), Siakam averaged 18.9 points per game, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. He also averaged around a steal a game, and about seven-tenths of a block (which is such a fun way to read 0.7 BPG, isn’t it?).

Now, those first three numbers are slightly up for 16.9, 6.9, 3.1, which is to be expected with more responsibility, but I feel like we should at least see what we’re working with here. I’ll get into what these per-game stats really mean, later on in this piece. There’s a header called Expectations, and first I need to talk about what Spicy P needs to improve.

Needs Improvement

Aside from the silly nickname, which I have mixed feelings about, Pascal needs to take another step with the jump shot. He can handle the ball now, he can spin past, dare I say, almost everyone. It’s that short midrange and those wing threes that I’d really like to see him take another step forward with. We saw reports of him working on some sort of Dirk Nowitzki fadeaway. Let’s see it, Pascal. We saw the deep three in Game 1 in Japan, and if he’s knocking those down, look out world.

The rest of Siakam experience feels like it will remain in place. He’s still going to outrun guys, he’s still going to get his shot off near the rim, and he’s still going to be able to play hyper-switch defense across every position on the floor. Last season, as noted, Siakam was able to rise to the occasion when called upon to be the number one guy for the Raptors — even in the Finals. But that was in a (relatively) small sample size, with a Kawhi-sized safety blanket always close at hand. Can Pascal do it for 82 games? Now’s the time to show it.


Frankly, there are plenty of reasons to thrust all sorts of expectations onto Pascal’s shoulders, especially given how much he exceeded them all last year. I’ve hyped him up, but now I should throw some water on the spice—wait, that should probably be milk, doesn’t water spread spice?

Pascal Siakam will be the number one option on a team without expectations — he won’t be enough to get this team to another title. Still, Kyle Lowry will be hanging out as a number two, and team depth and defense abound. I expect Pascal to earn his big money deal in Toronto after surprising the world to this point. Put me down for averages around something like 22.8 points and 7 rebounds. Too specific? I’m just setting those numbers so Siakam can surpass them too.