With Kawhi Leonard gone, Pascal Siakam will be the Toronto Raptors primary option next season. What are reasonable goals for him as a scorer?
Typically, when an NBA player increases their volume as a scorer, they become more inefficient. It takes more shots to score 20 than it does 10 points per game, and as a player’s shot attempts increases, so does the difficulty of those attempts. Early in his career, Toronto Raptors power forward Pascal Siakam has defied expectations.
Siakam has increased his points per 36 minutes every season he’s been in the NBA; he’s also increased his trueshooting percentage every season he’s been in the NBA. Pascal Siakam has managed to become a higher volume scorer while becoming more efficient.
Next season will pose an entirely different challenge. Siakam went from being a sporadically used bench piece to an integral part of the rotation to a starter. Next year, he’ll be the Toronto Raptors primary option.
Being the number one option brings an entirely new set of responsibilities and an entirely new set of challenges. So what are reasonable expectations for Pascal Siakam as a primary scorer?
Toronto’s offseason additions, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, among others, aren’t exactly “high-volume scorers.” Most of Green and Leonard’s volume will need to be absorbed by players already on the roster.
Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka are all on the wrong side of the aging curve; even in their prime, none of them were exactly “bucket-getters.” Toronto doesn’t have a ton of shot creation on the roster, and Pascal appears to be the most scalable option in terms of overall usage.
Last season, Siakam averaged 11.8 field goal attempts and 3.8 free throw attempts per game. He posted a usage of 20.6-percent, just over a 5-percent increase from the year before. Next year, it’s reasonable to assume similar, if not greater, growth in terms of volume.
Look for Pascal to increase his attempts by approximately 4 shots per game next season while posting a similar FTA rate. That would equate to somewhere around 16 shots and five free throw attempts per game.
Early in his career, Siakam has managed to not only maintain his efficiency but to actively increase it while shouldering a larger workload. As impressive as his growth has been, next season will pose an entirely different challenge.
Going from a four ppg scorer to an eight ppg scorer is easier than going from eight to 12. Going from eight to 12 is easier than 12 to 16. As the stakes get higher, and Siakam starts to gain the full attention of defenses, his efficiency will almost certainly drop off. As long as it doesn’t drop off significantly, that’s okay.
When Kawhi Leonard was off the floor last season, Siakam’s trueshooting percentage dropped by 3.0-percent. During that same time, his usage increased by 2.5-percent. If we assumed a similar efficiency trade-off for Siakam next season (I understand the math here is a little loose-goosey), Pascal would finish with an overall trueshooting of approximately 56.8-percent — right around league average (league average was 57.3-percent last year).
A six-percent drop in trueshooting is significant. However, if you account for the Raptors potential spacing problem next season, the increased volume that comes with being a primary scorer, and the additional defensive attention Siakam will face next season, it would be absurd to not expect a reasonable dropoff.
If Siakam is able to post a league-average trueshooting percentage, it would be a win.
What numbers that would produce
If Siakam is able to average 16 field goal attempts, five free throw attempts, on 57.3-percent trueshooting, it equates to 21.2 points per game.
Last season, 20 players finished with 21 or more points per game on league-average efficiency. Considering all the other skills Siakam brings to the table, if he can be a top 20 scorer as well, the Toronto Raptors will be in good shape.
Last season, Siakam vaulted from a consistent role player to one of the league’s up-and-coming stars. Unfortunately, next year, he might face an even more difficult challenge, particularly as a scorer. Whether he’s able to meet or exceed his goals, may decide the Toronto Raptors season.