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Whose Team Is It Anyway: Siakam has Toronto reaching for new superlatives

We try and fail to keep HQ’s pop culture comparison trend going by comparing various members of the Raptors to characters from HBO’s Succession on this week’s edition of Whose Team Is It Anyways.

NBA: New York Knicks at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard is gone, and in his wake the Raptors are searching. The roster was an egalitarian one behind Leonard last year, with Kyle Lowry orchestrating, Pascal Siakam scoring with efficiency, and a deep cast of role players in support. This season, however, Toronto is at a crossroads. Lowry is the all-time Raptor, but he’s 33 going on 34. Siakam is a rising star, but the question of whether he can be the franchise’s centerpiece is still an open one. The cast of role players mostly remains, but whether any of them can take the next step and shed the role player label remains to be seen.

Whose Team is it Anyways will be a column that tracks the best Raptor, tallying up the the results week by week, so that by the end of the year we can know whether this season was part of the Lowry era, the Siakam era, or the start of another era in Raptors’ history altogether.


What the Numbers Say:

Box score stats:

Points per game leader: Pascal Siakam (23.8 PPG)

Assists per game leader: Fred VanVleet (7.2 APG)

Rebounds per game leader: Chris Boucher (8 RPG)

Net rating/plus-minus & their derivatives:

On-court net rating leader: Chris Boucher (+25.4 points per 100 possessions)

On/off differential leader: Pascal Siakam (+19.0 on, +0.7 off, +18.3 differential)

Player Impact Plus-Minus leader : Pascal Siakam (+3.86 PIPM)

Box Plus-Minus leader: Chris Boucher (+4.1 BPM)

Note: Catch-all statistics (BPM & PIPM) are cumulative, taking the full season into account, all other stats only reference games played this past week.

What Ya Boy Says:

Okay, we’re going to go off the beaten path for a bit, mostly because my friend Scott Levine went and published an article about how Pascal Siakam’s development is analogous to the growth of Tony Hawk Pro Skater as a franchise. Now this could be fine, after all, both Tony Hawk and Pascal Siakam are cool, even if only one is a real person. This could be good even.

However, it ultimately was not good, or even fine, because the Lord Master and Commander of Raptors HQ said he “wanted to give Scott’s post some space” which resulted in my column being pushed back a day [Ed. Note: More like an hour, but fight the power!], and then also another few days after that, because I had class. This would and will not do. I am the preeminent editor’s pet at Raptors HQ. Nothing I write gets pushed back. I can write columns where I compare basketball players to pop culture too.

Of course, that means finding a piece of pop culture analogous to the theme of this column, which, I might remind you, attempts to answer the question of who, exactly, would succeed Kawhi Leonard as the Raptors’ franchise player. Well, that makes things very easy for me, because HBO recently put out a show called Succession, which as far as I can tell is about who will take over a company when the head honcho dies, so I mean, basically the same thing as this column. Both have succeeding. Now, I have never actually seen Succession, but I’m sure it will provide me with a wealth of characters perfectly analogous to the Toronto Raptors, and if I’m very nice to someone I’m sure they’ll give me their HBO password. So, let’s get in the mix.

Episode 1:

Immediately we encounter a problem in that I despise every single person on this show while I love all the Raptors with every fibre of my being (except perhaps Stanley Johnson). I am, furthermore, at a significant disadvantage relative to Scott, in that he was comparing one member of the Raptors to a series of video games that he has actually played, while I am attempting to compare every member of the Raptors to a television show I have never seen before. Still, I will not be dissuaded. The degree of difficulty in what I am attempting will, of course, only elevate my feeling of accomplishment when I finish this piece.

So, what follows is my inaugural “What HBO Character Is Every Member Of The Toronto Raptors” column. If your name is Bill Simmons and you just got an irresistible urge to hire me then I can be reached for business inquiries at jacob.m.mack@gmail.com.

(Note: Some characters will be referred to by the name of the actor who plays them until I learn their name)

Brian Cox:

He’s Kawhi, as he’s the person who’s legacy must be succeeded, and also because he’s obviously going to die soon. Kawhi might not be dead, but he’s both dead inside and dead to me, because if you choose Paul George, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell over Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam then you deserve less than nothing.

Kendall:

Among the spawn of Brian Cox this weasel shit appears to be the leading candidate to succeed his dad. Unfortunately, as the leader of the younger generation he also has to be analogous to Pascal Siakam. God I hate that. I hate this. I’m not sure how Scott did it. I guess he didn’t pick a show with utterly insufferable characters, or even a show or a piece of pop culture with any characters at all.

Kieran Culkin:

This character is such nauseating fuckspawn that he goes full circle and come all the ways back around to being charismatic again, right up until he steals a million dollars from a small child. I don’t hate anyone on the Raptors, even Stanley Johnson, enough to compare them to him.

God, I’m weak. I’m pathetic. I set out to do something and now I’m chickening out just because I gave myself an utterly thankless and moronic task. He’s Norman Powell. I’m sorry, okay. I’m sorry to Norm, I’m sorry to you, the readers, and I’m sorry to myself. Why have I done this?

Siobhan:

I absolutely despise Gaelic names. This name and the name Saorise are my mortal enemies. I used to run after-school programs and summer camps and when I saw a Gaelic name on my attendance I always had to stumble through it like eight or nine time before I finally got it right. It annoyed me to no end.

This character is Fred. She’s one of the central characters and she seems even-tempered and well-spoken, just like Steady Freddy so this is one of the first comparisons I actually feel good about, but I had to get the name stuff off my chest. Name your kid something like Fred for Christ’s sake.

Tom:

Tom keeps making deadpan jokes at the expense of another character called Cousin Greg where he threatens him with something before acknowledging that the threat was made in jest. That reminds of when Rondae Hollis-Jefferson tricked Josh Lewenberg at TSN into thinking he was genuinely mad at Norman Powell. So Tom is Rondae.

There are more characters on this show and more players on the Raptors, Jacob:

Okay, I know that, I’m done anyways. I’m never doing this again. Someone should have warned me that this was an awful idea. I’ve truly flown too close to the sun here.

Honestly, I just had to fill space this week. Kyle Lowry has been hurt and while he’s been hurt it’s very obviously been Pascal Siakam’s team. The bench trio of Boucher, Davis and Hollis-Jefferson have contributed a great deal, their minutes have been where the Raptors have really beaten teams the past two weeks, but it’s hard to isolate any one member of that group as a leader. Fred VanVleet has been individually good, stepping-up in Lowry’s absence to the tune of 21 points and 7 assists per game these past two weeks, but the team has largely staggered him with Siakam, and the on/off splits bear out who the real leader has been. The team has a net rating of +6.8 with VanVleet on the court these past 6 games, which is very respectable, but it’s the lowest among all Raptors’ regulars in that stretch. With Siakam on they’ve been annihilating their competition to the tune of a +19 net rating. VanVleet’s job is really just to keep the ship afloat before a Siakam and bench unit blows the opponent out of the water.

Siakam has been less brilliant scoring the ball than he was to kick off the year, his true shooting percentage has dropped closer to league average after his blistering start, as the absence of Lowry tightened up spacing and cut down on transition opportunities. He’s found ways to adjust to the changing circumstances, bombing pull-up threes at a rate that would have been utterly mind-blowing just a few months ago.

With it being Siakam’s team the Raptors have turned to him consistently in crunch time, and he’s delivered the kind of iconic highlights that you would expect from a franchise player. Against the Sixers he took Al Horford off the bounce and scored through contact from Joel Embiid, tying the game with a chance to go up by one at the line.

After that game, Sixers gremlins took to Twitter to blast Raptors’ fans for hanging regular season banners, which reminds me, remember when Siakam took Draymond Green off the dribble to hit what would end up being the deciding basket in the NBA finals?

Incredible how that moment isn’t going to be his peak.