The big question that reared its head when the Raptors entered the post-season was one that’s been present before. Can someone help Kawhi score the ball? Do the Raptors gave a 3rd star? The ghosts of the past seemed to still rear their heads in the present. Gasol, Lowry and Ibaka can all score on given nights, but they are not day in, day out scorers. Lowry is an all-star,but he is a similar player to Steve Nash: a play-making impact all-star, rather than a scorer. Those questions have been answered by a Douala’s best. Enter Pascal Siakam.
Whenever someone asks about what makes Pascal Siakam so great, it is hard to answer, simply because he can do so much and contribute everywhere. He has been the key 2nd cog in the Raptors offense and is averaging a good 21.7 PPG with 2.5 assists and 7 rebounds as of Game 5 against the 76ers. He had a few rough games in the middle of the series, but has since bounced back in game 5. His scoring is significantly up from his average on the regular season which is only 16.9 PPG.
Most of his ascension comes from the revamp of his offensive game. Pascal Siakam is like a magician: he can do so many things. He has mentioned that he can play multiple positions: perhaps that is why he is so versatile in this era of basketball. Handles like a guard, post ups like a big. A magician pulling things out of a hat: you never know what happens next.
If you try to draw comparisons to other players it is hard because he can remind you that he has some of the skills of every position all amalgamated into his mobile 230 pound frame. Simply put, he can do a bit of everything. This series has highlighted the multiple ways Siakam plays the game: his shift from one gear to another is his path to stardom.
In the early stages of the season, when Siakam ran in transition, his play in transition mirrored a guard who could only be described as fierce. Derrick Rose. Pascal Siakam always pushes the fast break and drives into the defense aggressively forcing them to make fast decisions on the defensive end.
Siakam’s athleticism from his soccer days allows him to run and run, up and down the court. He can outrun players and finish at the rim before the defense has a chance to set up with his speed and ball handling. Siakam has the ball handling of a guard. He can take the ball in his hands on a fast break and finish a dunk in transition. He can pass out of a collapsing defense. Derrick Rose was as fast as lightning down the court. Pascal mirrors him in being extremely fast and mobile for a big. Prime Rose was one of the most athletic finishers that the game has ever seen. Siakam also finishes all around the rim using his athleticism. He has an advantage: with his lengthy build it is a lot easier for him to finish over a defender than a true guard like Rose. Unlike Rose however, Siakam doesn’t take contact as often. Rather, he prefers to use his length and finesse to finish difficult layups.
Siakam is an amazing slasher to the basket. His ballhandling and guard level speed set him apart from other 4s giving him an advantage. The Raptors are 3rd in transition points in the playoffs in the playoffs with 21.5 points in transition with 10 games played. Siakam has played a huge role in those, and that is because he can run the break like a point guard but finish like a forward.
Some compare him to his teammate, Kawhi Leonard. That is high praise but Siakam is still working on the other aspects of his game, like the midrange shot, which Leonard has already mastered to score at will. I would draw a comparison to another unique player: Andrei Kirilenko. At his peak Andrei Kirilenko was the original stretch 4. He shot 31% from three in his career which for a big of his time is excellent.
Kirilenko could also do it on both ends. He was the 2004-05 block champion and a 3 time all-defensive selection. He could also get up at the other end and finish above the rim. If Kirilenko played today he would slot into all teams that want a stretch 4 with great defense, which is any team.
Siakam has similar two way capabilities. He too can finish above the rim, shoot the three and guard 1-4, and small ball 5s. He is mobile defensively with his feet and he has the athleticism to get blocks at the rim. And yet he is also fast enough and long enough to reach shooters. He can keep up with guards defensively on the perimeter as well as anyone.
The only knock on his defense would be the fact that he can’t guard true bigs (Joel Embiid), but thats not his job. Siakam has the makings of an excellent two way big man who can run the floor and finish at the rim. He can also post up and use his finesse to get around his opponents for easy layups.
Putting it together
Throughout the playoffs Siakam has shown himself to be a good complement to Leonard due to his ability to shift between different roles offensively and defensively. Siakam can do a little bit of everything, because his style is predicated on defying convention. He has all the traits of a two way big but with the speed of a guard.
That combination makes traditional big men too slow to guard him, and guards too small. Siakam has shown this by posting up against smaller players this series such as JJ Redick, but also maneuvering around the rim and Joel Embiid.
Siakam has elevated the Raptors potential, as now they have a breakout star who just happens to be the Swiss army knife for everything basketball. The various roles he can play allow him to side into anyone’s game. The Raptors have uncovered the a very competent two way star and his strengths have been put to the forefront in the bright lights of the playoffs.
*All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com