Make no mistake about it, the Toronto Raptors remain a legitimate threat to come out of the Eastern Conference. That is in large part due to the steady improvement from their now best player–– Pascal Siakam. The Cameroonian big man has made tremendous strides in his game over the past few seasons and, thanks to this dedication, he is now definitively among the league’s best. Flashback to just three years ago and Siakam was averaging just 7.3 points in 20.7 minutes. At that point in time, his playstyle had Toronto fans comparing him to Amir Johnson–– a solid role player and fan-favorite of Raptors faithful–– though he never even approached stardom during his tenure with The North. The same cannot be said for Siakam, who is well on his way to earning the first All-Star appearance of his young career.
Toronto sits as the third seed in the Eastern Conference with a 15-5 record to start the new campaign, and “Spicy P” has been tallying All-NBA caliber numbers. In 36.8 minutes of play, the New Mexico State product is averaging 25.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 3.9 assists–– all career-highs. Siakam is a primary scoring option for the first time in his career, and he is thriving in this role. It would be reasonable for one to suspect that a young star who suddenly is charged with carrying the load offensively would struggle to score efficiently, but not the 25-year-old. He is making 46.7% of his field-goal attempts, and Siakam is nailing 38.4% of his 3-pointers –– a significantly improved percentage compared to the 36.9% clip last season especially because he is taking more than double the number of triples per game than he did in 2018-19.
The Raptors’ impressive start to the season is possibly the best storyline of 2019-20 thus far. Many were expecting the squad to take a step back after losing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in free agency this past summer, but that has not happened. Toronto has already solidified itself as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, and that is a credit to how well Pascal Siakam has adjusted from being a complimentary star to becoming the go-to scorer. Considering the Raps are playing excellent basketball, it should come as no surprise that Siakam is considered to be a league MVP candidate. While he may not be leading the race over guys like Luka Doncic, James Harden, or LeBron James, he will be in the discussion for the award when the season is all said and done if he can sustain this level of production and earn Toronto a top seed.
Siakam is one of the best scorers in the game because of his ability to score the ball from all areas. He knocks down stand-still treys with great accuracy, as was previously mentioned, and he has now evolved his game to the point where he can take and make tough 3-pointers off the dribble as well. Siakam’s mid-range game is deadly, and he is an elite post scorer. The Douala native uses his unique combination of speed and strength to overpower his man and finish at the cup.
Not only can the foreign big man get buckets, but he is also a solid defender as well. Siakam utilizes his lankiness to impact an opponent’s shots, and his agility allows him to stay in front of his man and be in a position to toughen shot attempts.
The 6-foot-9 forward is making a strong case to become the first player in league history to win the Most Improved Player award in back-to-back seasons. He has made the transition from a complementary star to a superstar seamlessly, and that is a credit to a Raptors’ staff that is elite when it comes to player development. The organization is one of the best at drafting players and molding them into productive pros, which is a reason why the franchise is still in great hands despite no longer having Leonard on the roster.
With Pascal Siakam leading the way, Toronto is a team that no contender wants to face off against in a playoff series. They are a group comprised of championship DNA, couple that with having a top coach in Nick Nurse, and it would be unwise to dismiss this team as a non-title threat.