ESPN has released its latest Top 25 Under 25 NBA Player Ranking, and it should surprise no one that Toronto’s own Pascal Siakam has made it — and in fact has done quite well for himself, coming in at #12.
You can read the full list here (ESPN E+ subscription required), as compiled by ESPN’s Chris Herring, Bobby Marks and Kevin Pelton.
Now, given Siakam’s incredible season thus far, you might actually think that’s a bit low. He scored 44 points less than two weeks ago, after all! But it’s hard to argue that the names ahead of him don’t have legitimate cases, starting with #1, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and including Joel Embiid (#2), Ben Simmons (#5), Luka Doncic (#6) and Jayson Tatum (#10).
And considering Siakam didn’t even make this list last year, for him to come in at #12 in his third year in the league is a heck of an accomplishment.
Here’s what Marks had to say about Pascal in his summary:
This future All-Star is now both good enough to help the Raptors try to retain free-agent-to-be Kawhi Leonard and a potential face of the franchise in case Leonard leaves for another team.
That didn’t seem possible when Leonard was acquired from the Spurs. But seven months later, Toronto has a young power forward in Siakam who has gone from a rotation player averaging fewer than 20 MPG in his first two seasons combined to a core player logging 31.6 minutes.
Marks’ last point there is an interesting one; one could parse that as simply as, “Siakam is doing more because he’s playing more minutes” but if you’ve watched the man play this year, you know it’s a lot more than that; his playmaking, ballhandling, shooting, and decision-making have improved in leaps in bounds, catching up to his foot speed and defensive awareness. Even head coach Nick Nurse has said he wasn’t necessarily slotting Siakam in as a full-time starter to begin the season, but Siakam’s play has made it impossible to take him out of the lineup.
Siakam is averaging 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one steal in those 31.6 minutes, and has started 59 of the 60 games he’s played this season. He’s shooting .550 from the field and .353 from three-point range, for a true shooting percentage of .627. And yes, all of those numbers are career highs!
Speaking of career highs, Siakam set a career high of 44 points against the Wizards on February 13, eclipsing his previous career high of 33 (set on February 7). That 33 eclipsed his previous career high of 30... set on January 5. That 30 eclipsed his previous career high of 28... set on January 1. He also had a career-high 19 rebounds in a double-OT win over the Wizards on January 13.
Suffice to say it’s been a pretty good two months for Siakam! We’re watching him blossom into a star before our very eyes. Not only does this development bode well for keeping Kawhi Leonard, as Marks mentions — who wouldn’t want to play next to a guy like this? — but it should also give Raptors fans confidence that, even if Leonard walks in free agency, we’ve got an up-and-coming star waiting just behind him.