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Player Preview: It’s Siakam Season on and off the court

Whether it’s his play on the floor or his future, the talk of the Raptors’ season will be Pascal Siakam

Washington Wizards v Toronto Raptors Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

It’s hard to hear Pascal Siakam’s name this season and not get caught up in contract extension or trade talks, but there is still a season to be played — so let’s break down what he’ll bring to the Raptors play before getting lost in how much longer he’ll be a Raptor. Deal? Deal.

On the Court

It goes without saying that as Siakam goes, so will the Raptors’ offense this season. Over the last two years, Siakam has averaged better than 20 points, seven rebounds, and five assists per game, which with Fred VanVleet having touched down in Houston, will be key in maintaining if not improving on this year. Raptors fans should be excited about the potential of an offense running through Siakam, who has always had the distribution skills to get the group going, but has not often had all the onus on his own shoulders.

In terms of specifics, the Raptors would certainly love to see the Cameroonian bring the pull-up 3 back into his repertoire. When you look up and down the lineup, Siakam is the one guy who has shown the ability to be dangerous on the pull-up from deep as well as being an accomplished playmaker.

The problem is that it hasn’t been a consistent dangerous dagger of a shot since the ‘19-’20 season when he hit 51 pull-up 3’s in 59 games. Since then Siakam has sank a mere 43 of those shots in 195 games. With O.G. Anunoby taking anywhere between four and five times catch-and-shoot 3’s than pull ups and Dennis Schroder having built his game on driving, combined with the reluctance to rely on Scottie Barnes’ long-range jumper, Siakam bringing back his pull-up 3-point shot could prove pivotal in the Raptors racking up points.

Even if Siakam can’t get the pull-up deep shot back into his toolkit right away, his offensive contribution will have to see an adjustment from seasons past based on how new bench boss Darko Rajakovic has said he wants to run the floor.

Fans can expect to see a “quicker, less is more” type of offensive game plan run through the Raptors over the course of the season. When asked about how the face of the franchise is adjusting to the new offensive plan, Rajakovic praised his star.

“He’s doing a great job, it’s actually allowing him to be more efficient. He’s doing a great job of cutting, of playing without the ball, and spacing. You cannot hide the talent on the floor and he’s extremely talented.”

If it wasn’t obvious that Rajakovic was excited to get Siakam into his system, that should clear it up.

In the Front Office

Okay the part you’re all here for…what the heck are the Raptors going to do with Siakam? Sign him? Trade him? Lose him for nothing?

I think everyone agrees on the fact that the last of those options is not ideal in any sense of the word, but I also think the Raptors fan base has seen enough to know that it can’t really be removed as an option. Losing him for nothing aside, the cognitive dissonance among the fanbase when it comes to Siakam’s future with Toronto is at an all time high, with whichever side of the argument you fall on likely indicating your overall belief in the current iteration of this team.

Realistically, an extension for Siakam would likely eat up around 30% of the team’s salary cap, a sticker shock so high you really have to squint to see how having him around at that cost elevates this team to where someone being paid that much should. Calling a spade a spade, in this iteration of the Toronto Raptors, with the pieces they have to surround Siakam, him eating up 30% of your cap hit likely isn’t worth it.

The biggest upside to signing Siakam to the long term deal is convoluted as it would likely make him easier to trade, given that the team on the receiving end would be bringing in a franchise piece rather than a rental. Signing him and playing him until a trade does come through though, again given who else is suiting up for Toronto, would more than likely keep this team middling in mediocrity, not bad enough to get a fate-altering pick and not good enough to actually do anything about it.

All the arguments to trade Siakam for the highest potential return make sense. The gamble comes in when you consider all the different ways the team could maximize that return. Am I going to tell you what the Raptors will do? No, because I genuinely don’t know if they even have the answer to that.

Am I going to tell you that we have likely seen the last of a full season of Siakam in Toronto?

Yes, yes I am.