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Free Agency 2019

NBA Free Agency 2019: Can the Toronto Raptors build a championship team around Pascal Siakam?

#Siakam

With Kawhi Leonard's tenure in Toronto coming to an abrupt end, the Raptors will now look forward and try to build their team back to title contention.

Pascal Siakam remains as the Raptors most talented player as the team looks ahead to the future.

With that in mind, we asked our NBA.com staff: Can the Raptors build a championship team with Pascal Siakam as the centrepiece?

Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): If the goal is to hang another banner, then the answer is no.

I love Siakam and I think he's going to be an All-Star next season. He'll likely put up something like 22-8-4 with all-league defence on the other end. But there's a sizeable gap between that level of All-Star production and the type required to spearhead extended postseason runs as THE guy into June.

So much of his productivity is based on effort and intensity. He's tremendous at filling in the gaps, getting buckets on the break or on putbacks or after advantageous switches, but I'm skeptical that he can deliver as option 1A when called upon consistently with a defence geared towards stopping him every time down the floor.

He's the perfect complimentary star, but not someone you point towards as the singular foundational piece of a legitimate championship contender.

The Raptors should spend the next few years showcasing Siakam to as a recruiting tool to find their next version of Kawhi Leonard either via free agency or trade.

Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): I'd have to say no.

Pascal Siakam is a great second option, a great 1B type player.

He'll be able to carry the Raptors in the regular season, he's proven he can do that for stretch this past year and we all expect him to improve even more this summer.

But carrying a team in the regular season versus having to shoulder that load in the playoffs are two different things. There's pressure to produce with a defence keying in on you every night, taking away your first and second options and making you adjust on the fly. Seeing the same team over and over again means as the top dog, there's the expectation to rise above it even though they know exactly what it is you want to do. You need to be a top-five player in the NBA to truly put your team in position to win it all, Pascal might crack the top 15 in the NBA, but top five is a stretch.

Siakam needed Kawhi Leonard to be the leader he was this past season. Having Leonard on the roster allowed him to achieve at a high level in the playoffs. Without him, the load would be too much for Siakam to manage.

We saw what having a really nice, All-Star type of player can do for you with DeMar DeRozan. In my opinion, Siakam can do much of the same things with the Raptors on his back. But to win a championship with him as the centrepiece, I can't see it.

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): The Raptors can absolutely build a competitive team around Siakam, but there are certain holes in his game right now that hold him back from being a superstar, which is what Toronto would need him to become for him to be the centrepiece of a championship team.

When he was being guarded by bigger players in the playoffs - mainly Joel Embiid and Brook Lopez - Siakam struggled to score consistently because he wasn't able to bulldoze his way to the basket and finish over them like he did against most defenders. If he were to add a midrange pull-up and/or become a more reliable 3-pointer shooter, that gameplan basically goes out the window because the Embiids and Lopezs of the NBA wouldn't be able to get away with backing way off of him and planting themselves in the paint.

Is Siakam likely to develop into a legitimate three-level scorer? It's hard to say. He combined to make only 29.5 percent of his midrange pull-ups and catch-and-shoot 3s in the playoffs, but he was a much improved 3-point shooter in the regular season and showed signs of being a more willing midrange scorer.

For that reason, I'm going to ride the fence by saying it's unlikely but not impossible that the Raptors can build a championship contender around Siakam, with it depending on if can continue to improve at the rate he has since he was drafted.

Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): Siakam has made great strides in his development and will continue to do so, but I have a hard time envisioning him as the No. 1 piece on a championship team.

This year showed us that Pascal is best suited as a team's second option, as Kawhi drew plenty of attention from defences and Lowry could create opportunities for everyone on offence.

Siakam will be a 20-point scorer in this league, no doubt.

He averaged 16.9 points per game in the regular season, 19.0 per game in the playoffs and 19.8 points per game over six Finals games. After a huge 32-point (on 14-17 shooting) performance in Game 1, the Finals also showed us what we'd see if a defence's chief focus is to neutralize Siakam. In Game 2, he finished with just 12 points as he shot 5-for-18 from the field.

As a team's top option, he'd see that defensive focus on a nightly basis - that's not the look of a championship contender.

Siakam would need to redefine his game for that to work which, in turn, could put a damper to his rapid progression.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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