Toronto Raptors player of the Week: Pascal Siakam

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Despite the losing record, Toronto Raptors’ All-Star Pascal Siakam just gave his best week of basketball in nearly a year.

It’s been a rough few months for Pascal Siakam (and the Toronto Raptors).  Since his mid-season groin injury, last year his play and his approval rating on and off the court have been trending steadily downwards.

While it’s never fun to see your team’s star player disappoint, it was even weirder in Pascal’s case because he was so universally loved beforehand.  A hardworking, unselfish, energy guy, who could do a bit of everything on the floor and won the NBA Title as part of the most beautifully crafted team of misfits you’ll ever see.  And doing it all with his signature toothy grin.

If you want to talk numbers, from 2017-18 to 2019-20 Pascal Siakam has the most dramatic two-year improvement of anyone this century.  In those years, he more than tripled his PPG average, bumped his 3-point shooting by 10% and his FT shooting by 17%.  He was a threat to repeat as the league’s most improved player.  No-one has ever come close to that.

That is why it’s been so hard to watch him struggle these past few months.  We’re so used to him exceeding our expectations that when we finally reached the ceiling of Pascal’s abilities it felt like a brick wall.  For three years we watched maybe the most dramatic improvement of any NBA player ever.  And then it stopped.  And we weren’t ready.

The Ultimate Role Player

That’s why this week was so important for Pascal Siakam.

Over the past seven days and four games Siakam has looked like the All-NBA player we saw last Fall.

His numbers:

  • 17.75 PPG, 9 TRB, 5.25 AST, 1.05 STL, 0.75 BLK

I love this. At a first glance, you might be thinking “17 points?  I thought he was 23 last year?  I thought he was the focal point of our offence?”  And yes, his scoring has taken a dip but I would argue that that’s actually a good thing.

Pascal Siakam is not Michael Jordan.  For all of his skills, he is not the kind of player who puts up 30 points and scores his team to victory.  He’s much more like Scottie Pippen.  A point-forward who works his tail off on both ends provides secondary ball-handling options, can create his own shot in a pinch, and works the in-between areas of the game.

Last year we asked Siakam to be our first scoring option.  He rose to the occasion he was able to carry that load and we lost in the second round.  This week was a great week for Siakam because we started using him the way we did in our 2019 Title run.  Moving off-ball, cutting, distributing, and handling it on the break.

Look at his rebounding and assist numbers!  His defensive and efficiency stats.  Pascal can be the primary scorer on a playoff team, but not a contending one.  This here is what he’s best at and I’m so happy Nick Nurse realized that.

This also bodes well for the team moving forward.  Accepting that Pascal is not cut from the James Harden/Kobe Bryant cloth but more like Draymond Green/James Worthy, allows him to be the ultimate Swiss army knife for our team.  An All-Star role player who you can plug and play into any system and he will bring a positive impact.

Using Pascal this way means he can help our franchise regroup and turn the page.  It doesn’t matter what’s next, Pascal will be able to help us.

Maybe it’s a little bit bitter/sweet realizing our beloved Spicy-P is not enough to lead us to greatness, but he can still play a huge part in it.

So he’s not Michael Jordan, he’s Scottie Pippen.  That’s still pretty damn good.