Siakam transformed from Raptors to the best player in the NBA

When Kawhi Leonard left the Toronto Raptors for his hometown of the Los Angeles Clippers in the summer of 2019 – also known as “History’s Last Great Summer” or “The Summer Before the Storm” – the Raptors chose Pascal Siakam as his successor.

It was a really obvious choice: Siakam was coming off a more advanced player campaign after averaging 17/7/3 on 55/37/76 as a third choice in the championship team, and as a six-foot-tall, nine-foot-tall winger/forward hybrid, he had A unique skill set that is rare to find in the NBA; One the Raptors wanted to build and refine, even if it took some time.

“I think that’s pretty much the case where we were going to try to get him to play in that kind of player after we left some players on the roster,” Raptors coach Nick Norse said of Sicam becoming the number one choice. “It was the next logical choice to do so.”

No matter what happens the rest of the Raptors season, Pascal Siakam has proven himself. (GT)

The early results were better than anyone could reasonably imagine. Siakam averaged 23/7/3.5 in 45/36/79 shooting splits in his first season as the No. 1 pick in 2019-20, carrying a 27.8 percent usage rate, which ranked him the 93rd percentile among strikers that season. Siakam was arguably the second-best player in the NBA when the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the Raptors’ season, earning his first All-Star berth and second-team honors in the NBA.

It’s worth noting that the 2019-20 squad was brimming with talent, with Kyle Lowery also selecting All-Stars, Fred Vanfleet, OG Anunoby, Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol surrounding Seacam. Additionally, after not being able to get hold of a basketball for several months, the Raptors caught in the NBA bubble, with Siakam struggling in all areas of his offensive game, as the Boston Celtics were able to capitalize on some of Siakam’s weaknesses. .

Those struggles continued into the 2020-21 season, when the Raptors were forced to relocate to Tampa, Florida, and were struck by a team-wide COVID outbreak near the middle of the season. But no matter the circumstances, Siakam has been inconsistent, going through highs and lows while struggling to support a less balanced and less talented team.

For their part, the Raptors began to worry less about results and more about the process, putting the ball in Sekam’s hands and enabling him to be the kind who could learn different defensive scheming and tactics as he went along. That slow development has paid off, as Siakam plays the best basketball of his career in 2021-22 and has been the best raptor since the start of the new year, leading the team to a staggering 39-30 record, in seventh place. in the East.

Sometimes advanced stats are the best way to tell the story, but sometimes raw stats do the trick. This season, Siakam is one of five players averaging 20 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. The other four are Giannis Antetokonmo, LeBron James, Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic. Siakam scored the lowest group turnover at 2.7 per game.

With a 25.3 per cent use rate and 55.8 real shootouts – better than his 2019-20 campaign despite notably poor talent around him – the debate over whether Siakam is the first choice is over.

What’s most interesting about Siakam and the Raptors is that he has improved (in the All-NBA season) in many of the most important ways when it comes to success in the playoffs: He’s plotting more fouls, catching more mismatches, and scoring more in the average. ​Range, resulting in more play for his teammates, and defending the edge at a higher level. Let’s break down Siakam’s improvements further, using some of his favorite clips of the year to show how far he’s progressed.

Scoring

Siakam ignites the Raptors’ attack in fifteenth place, whether in the middle of the field or in the transitional phase. The Raptors score an additional 7.8 points for every 100 possessions with Siakam on the field, including another 6.8 points in the halfway and another 3.5 points in the transition.

He tops every opponent’s scouting report and sees the most defensive attention from any Raptor, but he’s learned how to take advantage of his scoring no matter what defense is thrown at him or the lack of spaces around him. And the most important part as we head toward the playoffs is that he does it mostly himself, with 60 percent of his designer breeds coming unassisted, which ranks 97 percent in the league, proving he can score without plays. For him (top 5 in isolation frequency) the Raptors saved with a hard shot, an important quality of the playoff attack.

“I think the more positions, for me, the better… I just pick things up and the more defenses I see, the better,” Siakam said. “And I also try to work on just composing and figuring out where I want to go and how to enforce my will and get to where I want to get to. I think that’s what great players do.”

One of the ways Siakam has been able to support the Raptors’ attack on the half-court is by optimizing as a mid-range throw. His relatively advanced grip and impressive trailing action allow Siakam to comfortably reach his mid-range positions, where 52 percent of his shots come from. His embrace of communication and his newfound ability to look for and chase mismatches allow him to fire 44 percent of the career high, which is 10 percentage points better than his NBA season and ranks 66 percent.

Siakam still hits the edge healthily despite the terrible spacing around him, often bullying mismatches on his way there or using his spinning action to get away from defensive pressure and get to the edge. While 32 percent of his low-level shots come at the edge (again, the spacing), he converts on 67 percent of those chances, which ranks 65 percent and is his most efficient mark since the championship season.

Siakam’s ability to score in the mid-range and reach the edge while fouled on 13.4 percent of his shot attempts — which ranks 91 percent for attackers and puts him in the line and is a career-high 5.5 times a match — should go long way in The qualifiers are when things get tighter, slower, and more physical.

toy industry

Perhaps the most impressive (and most important) part of Siakam’s development is not his shot but his ability to read defense and the patience to attack him in the best possible way.

This is the trait that the best point guards have: guys like Chris Paul who will see how they are guarded and adapt quickly, passing good shots (like a three-draw pointer, in Siakam’s case) to great people (like passing a teammate layup). Siakam started by reading the match and executing it against established defenses as well as against any striker in the league.

“It seems that the speed or tempo or composure with which he plays in traffic has slowed down for him or changed in some way,” the nurse said of Siakam recently. “I think he’s really more patient. He doesn’t rush himself and gets into a lot of traffic in there. And I think if he does, he does a really good job of getting up in the air and getting her out of those crises.”

No wonder Siakam has an assist ratio of 21.6, at the 92nd percentile, while its average 5.1 assists a 2.7 turnover. And he does it in every way, setting up his teammates for dunks, quick passes, push-and-shoots, and open thirds.

In the half field, Siakam gets a lot of attention due to his improved scoring that teams often have no choice but to send a double team towards him (or at least shade several players his way), and he does a great job of seeing the entire field and making not only the correct reading , but the implementation of the pass in the shot pockets of his teammates.

In the transition phase, Siakam was always a good finisher, but there was an adjustment period when he was asked not to be the exclusive finalist and instead be the decision maker, and he struggled with that.

Siakam’s sportsmanship and speed allow him to be a good transitional end player, but it takes time to learn how to make readings at 100 percent speed, especially when the defense forces you to be a passerby. But this year Siakam has been excellent in the transition, whether as a scorer or playmaker, and with Kyle Lowry gone and no longer fueling the sixth-ranked Raptors attack in the transition, Siakam has been able to fall behind.

Siakam is now capable of making every pass in the book, whether it’s in the half field or in transition. This is because his improved grip allows him to reach tight spots and the court’s vision and patience allow him to perform there.

defense

Oddly enough, defense is a part of Siakam that has arguably become the most underrated. Of course, any time you ask someone to play 37.7 minutes per game using 25.3 percent (Siakam only missed three games in 2022), you’re going to see some errors. But Sekam remains one of the league’s most versatile defenders, executing the Raptors’ scheme flawlessly as he moves everywhere and uses his speed and length to rival shots all over the ground.

Additionally, over the past two years, as the Raptors have lost Ibaka and Gasol and replaced them with less traditional positions, they have required Siakam to be more of an edge protector, either guarding the big men in position or rotating as the low-man rival opponents driving to the edge. Siakam is noticeably better at this, taking 4.9 shots on the edge of each game (the opponents shoot 63.5 percent) and for the most part not in the right position to make it difficult for his opponents to bounce back in their failed run. Average (6.4 defensive rebounds per game).

Of course, even when Siakam’s offensive game fell into the NBA bubble, his defense was excellent. But this was playing alongside Ibaka or Gasol, who the Raptors could rely on to protect the Edge if they were hit. Now, Siakam is often the last line of defense, and despite being a six-foot-nine winger, he does an impressive job at the center of the 15th-seeded Raptors defense.

Siakam is clearly playing the best basketball of his career and has improved in some of the most important ways. Yes, he should be named to the All-NBA Team and maybe even the All-Defense Team, but think bigger. Having become the first-choice against the Boston Celtics the last time the Raptors were in the playoffs, Siakam has transformed himself into an all-around player who, judging by the ways he has come up with his game, should be able to succeed in even the toughest playoffs, using his improved grip, and mid-range touch, rim pressure, playmaking, and rim protection for control.

No matter what happens in the remainder of the Raptors’ season, Siakam should feel confident as he has developed into one of the best players in the NBA. And the birds of prey must feel innocent because they have chosen the right man to do so.

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