I was initially hoping to write this after Pascal Siakam deployed revenge on the entire league by dropping 40 points on the Houston Rockets last night. Sadly, that did not happen.
He played fine after another extremely slow start for both him and the Raptors as a whole. Toronto started off 0-6 with three turnovers, heading into the first timeout of the game down 9-0. Siakam during that stretched missed a couple easy layups, and had the ball knocked loose while attempting a post up closer to the three-point line than the basket.
Lately, it has not been pretty for Pascal Siakam. The already one-time All-Star has six 30-point performances on the year, with the last one coming on a January 12th win over the Charlotte Hornets.
Since that game, he has only shot over 50% from the field four times, including an exactly 50% night in last night’s game. To put that into perspective, he did that four times within his first nine games of the year, before the groin injury put him out for a stretch.
It doesn’t help that he leads the NBA in minutes played per game at 37.7, and for the majority of those minutes he was the only functional offensive option for the Raptors. On top of that, he suffered a groin injury as previously mentioned, and even though there are no signs of current repercussions, it is still a physical and mental toll to miss 10 games due to injury.
Lastly, the confidence factor has to be discussed. You can find many examples from early in the year of Siakam taking a shot either off the catch, or dribble with confidence. The games where he was scoring 30+ points off 60% shooting or better, and contributing a healthy number of assists to his totals as well, Siakam looked like one of the best offensive options in the league some nights.
Now, a lot of those opportunities are passed up to turn his back to the basket and try to work his defender in the post. Don’t get me wrong, he is extremely effective in post-up situations, but at his size, it needs to be utilized more as a counter to his face-up game, rather than his go-to offensive weapon. Especially when his goal is to work his way into the paint for an easy layup.
Look at some of these shots, where he rose up with confidence because he saw a glimpse of an opening.
A big difference in Pascal's game now compared to the beginning of the year is simply his confidence to take open shots. He's resorting a lot more to turning his back to the basket and forcing his way inside. pic.twitter.com/CWCIc4LiRf— Zach Wilson (@ZachWilsonMH) February 4, 2023
Another example of a defender laying off of him, and Siakam making them pay for dropping the help guy on the screen. pic.twitter.com/opN9HkL3Ro— Zach Wilson (@ZachWilsonMH) February 4, 2023
Compare that to a few nights ago against the Utah Jazz where Siakam has the ability to pick-and-pop for the open midrange, but decides to drive into the bigger defender, resulting in a difficult hook shot.
Here's an example similar to the first one, where he was pulling even off a breath of space. With the lack of confidence in his jumper, it is forcing him to drive into the bigger defender to get closer to the net, but take a more contested shot. pic.twitter.com/UpWkN1a0oe— Zach Wilson (@ZachWilsonMH) February 4, 2023
Should Pascal Siakam still have made the All-Star team?
In short, the answer is yes. Despite the past couple of weeks, All-Stars are based on the entirety of the season; or the entirety of the first half of the season, which is still extremely weird to me that this is the way it’s done.
Another reason aside from the recency bias that the coaches likely bought into when leaving Siakam off of their ballots, was the disappointing season the Raptors have put forth so far.
I know that DeMar DeRozan and Tyrese Haliburton made it, and their records are barely better than the Raptors, but I do understand the difference between those two and Siakam.
For starters, the Pacers are 2-10 with Haliburton out of the lineup this season. They were right near a playoff team up till his 10 game absence, where the Pacers went 1-9 without him, dropping them below the play-in.
DeRozan on the other hand, like Siakam, has been a good stats-bad team guy all year. The main difference is that the Raptors were expected to be good. I don’t think anyone was talking about the Bulls soaring their way into the playoffs and potentially winning their way through the first round.
For one of the first times in a long time, the general consensus around NBA media and fans, was that the Raptors were ready to take that next step. Everyone was hitting the over on their win totals, projecting them to finish above teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets, and with or without Siakam in the lineup, they have been a disappointment. A disappointing bad record is viewed worse than an expected bad record.
However, for the same reason that I hate “ring-legacy culture,” is the same reason that I hate this argument for leaving Siakam off the All-Star team. Winning is the result of a team. One player does not win or lose a game, especially not when you are talking about the course of an entire season, (or once again, half-season).
If you were truly watching the Raptors, you would know that Siakam is not the reason that this team has been vastly underperforming. In fact, you could argue that he’s the only reason that the play-in is still viable.
Other guys like Scottie Barnes and Fred VanVleet have had their moments, especially as of late, but since day one, Siakam has been the only one who has shown up to play on a consistent basis.
He is one of only five players averaging more than 20 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists on the season. The other four guys? Clear All-Star STARTERS: LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounnpo. One of those players, which sits on a team also in 12th, but in the opposite conference.
Yes, I’m not dumb. Or maybe I am a little? Either way, I am not trying to compare Pascal Siakam to LeBron James and claim they are equals. It is just another example at how team record can and should be overridden when you are good enough to be an All-Star.
Let’s take a look at PER. A stat which even though it is flawed like anything else, truly encompasses a player’s all around impact on the game. Siakam currently sits with a PER of 20.5. Julius Randle’s is 20.8.
Very similar, in fact Randle’s is slightly better. The point I’m trying to prove is how much better Randle’s teammates have been. If we take players who have played over 1,000 minutes on the season, the New York Knicks sit with two players aside from Randle with a higher PER, than the Raptors’ second highest. Jalen Brunson at 20.1, and Mitchell Robinson at 18.8, compared to Fred VanVleet at 17.5.
Are you trying to tell me that if Pascal Siakam and Julius Randle swapped positions, that the teams wouldn’t be in a similar situation? Or if Siakam took Jrue Holiday’s place on Milwaukee, that they wouldn’t be better?
Yes, you can argue fit and scheme if you really want to get into that comparison, but the overall point I am trying to make is that Siakam is better, and is having a better season than multiple guys who got selected as Eastern Conference All-Stars.
It sucks that the team is underperforming, and I know every fan, player, or coach would agree that they wish the Raptors were winning more. It just sucks even more when it has extra ramifications like Siakam getting snubbed from the All-Star team, when he is having a season where he should deservedly make it.
I guess we’ll see if he gets selected as an injury replacement if one is needed, and if he can come out in the back-half of the year and prove every voter wrong.