The restarted Raptors are still seeking to defend their 2019 NBA title. For our latest series, Things for the Rings, we’ll break down what each essential person on the team can do to answer the major question on every fan’s mind: What does each Raptor need to do to make a Toronto repeat reality?
Thing for the Ring: Oh, just be the no. 1 offensive threat on a title team
A ball-dominant superstar who can close out games. That’s been the role the Raptors have been grooming Pascal “Spicy P” Siakam for since the season began. As befits the most challenging role in the NBA, the results have been mixed.
On the plus side, Siakam’s scoring jumped close to seven points a game, and his assist percentage inched upwards, while his turnover percentage declined. At the same time, Siakam saw his shooting percentages crumble — hitting two-point shots at the lowest rate of his career, and posting an effective field goal that was the second lowest.
It’s all added up to an offensive rating that’s barely better than his rookie season and ahead of only Patrick McCaw among Raptors who played more than 140 minutes.
Now, someone has to soak up those possessions, and a good argument can be made that other Raptors might have seen greater declines than Siakam if they had had to shoulder such a large load. Still, Siakam doesn’t stack up well to the league’s elite — at least not yet.
Siakam comes in 29th in True Shooting amongst players who play at least 25 minutes a game with a usage rate of 25th. His PIE (NBA.com’s all-in-one player evaluator) is 25th. Raptors fans knew Toronto wouldn’t have the best offensive player in a series against Milwaukee or the Clippers, but against Orlando or Detroit?
Of course, the whole of Siakam’s game and the attention he gets means he’s better than any one of those single numbers suggest. Still, if the Raptors want to go back-to-back, Siakam is going to have be consistently better in the playoffs.
Can He Do It?
Maybe? After a hot start, Siakam hasn’t managed a TS% greater than .571 in any given month, and even that wouldn’t see him crack the top 20. This simply does not fit the profile of a title team’s high-usage superstar.
There is one thing that can give Raptors’ fans hope though — how well Siakam has done in the clutch (defined as games within five points in the last five minutes).
Among players with at least a 25 percent usage, and at least 20 games in clutch situations, Siakam’s TS% leaps to 60.8% — good for ninth in the league. (Also reassuringly, Kyle Lowry is 4th — behind Joel Embiid, Chris Paul, and Terry Rozier???) That meets the eye-test which saw the Raptors win a lot of tight games this past year with Siakam making decisions in the clutch.
Chances of It Happening: 4.5 out of 10
This is going to be tough for Siakam. While he has more tools in his box to counter opponent’s schemes against him than last year, he also doesn’t have someone like Kawhi Leonard to soak up those possessions and attract a lot of extra attention. Siakam has also exhibited a bad habit of pressing at times, taking degree-of-difficulty shots that aren’t necessary.
Still, Siakam is smart, ever-improving, and the Raptors will be as healthy as they have all season, which should hopefully allow him to get better shots. That makes it about a coin flip that Siakam can score efficiently enough all game long to allow Toronto’s clutch excellence to come into play against the NBA’s elite.