It’s going to take a little bit more than Tuesday night’s impressive play of Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam to really surprise the unflappable Kawhi Leonard.
It’s all stuff Leonard has seen before from his former Toronto Raptors teammates. Back then, in 2018-19, Siakam and VanVleet were just starting their ascent into NBA stardom. They were 24 years old and still getting used to the NBA game and trying to find their own ways to make an impact alongside one of the league’s best all-around players.
For VanVleet, the past two seasons have shown what he’s capable of doing with more opportunity. He’s seen his usage rate jump from 18% in 2018-19 to 23.8% this year and he’s gone from leading bench units to leading Toronto’s starters on a nightly basis.
“He’s just more aggressive on the floor. He always had a game, going both ways, shooting the ball [in] both directions, ” Leonard said.
Siakam’s ascent up the NBA mountain began during the second half of that championship season. His points per game jumped from 16.1 to 19 after the 2018 All-Star break and he maintained that pace right through the playoffs and into 2019-20.
“He was doing it when I was there,” Leonard said. “Being very aggressive for us, attacking the rim, making shots, making big plays on both ends of the floor as a two-way player.”
So much of their success has just come down to opportunity, Leonard said. Over the past few years, VanVleet and Siakam have stepped out of the shadow of Leonard and Kyle Lowry and shown on a pretty regular basis that they can play at an all-star caliber level.