The Toronto Raptors have had two players represent the franchise in the All-Star Game in each of the last four seasons.
Is this the season that streak ends?
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With how well he's been playing, it's safe to assume that the Raptors will have at least one All-Star in Pascal Siakam. After him is where it gets complicated. Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet have both had stretches in which they've also looked like All-Stars, as has Marc Gasol - more on him in a bit - but they each face stiff competition at their respective positions.
So will Siakam be Toronto's only All-Star this season? If not, who is most likely to join him?
Let's take a look at each of their cases, starting with Siakam.
Pascal Siakam, Frontcourt
The question isn't whether or not Siakam is an All-Star this season. It's whether or not he's done enough to start.
Numbers wise, Siakam has a strong case. After being named the league's Most Improved Player last season, he's averaging career highs across the board of 25.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. The only other player in the Eastern Conference putting up those sorts of numbers on a nightly basis this season is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is widely considered to be the front-runner for MVP.
MORE: Siakam has become an entirely new player - again
Siakam obviously isn't at the same level as Antetokounmpo is, but he has found himself in the early MVP discussion because of how well he has been playing and how that has impacted a Raptors team that has far exceeded preseason expectations. According to NBA.com, Toronto has been 7.6 points per 100 possessions better offensively and 2.3 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Siakam on the court this season.
The combination contributed to Siakam having the best net rating differential on the team prior to his injury.
Where Siakam's case takes a hit is he's missed seven straight games with a groin injury and there's still no timetable for his return. With how well Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid have been playing, the amount of time Siakam misses could open the door for one of them to start over him.
Even if that does happen, Siakam should be a lock to make the All-Star team for the first time in his career.
Fred VanVleet, Guard
Speaking of first-time All-Stars...
VanVleet has been solid all season long for the Raptors. Despite being the smallest player on the team, he's replaced Danny Green in the starting lineup while averaging career highs of 18.0 points, 6.9 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 2.0 steals in 36.2 minutes per game.
VanVleet had already established himself as one of the best reserves in the league. Now he's establishing himself as a legitimate starter ahead of free agency.
MORE: Who are this season's potential first-time All-Stars?
It helps that VanVleet took his game to another level in the month of November when the Raptors lost Lowry to a fractured left thumb. He boosted his averages to 21.2 points, 7.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds in Lowry's absence and helped the Raptors go 9-2, their only losses coming to the Dallas Mavericks and LA Clippers.
As our Carlan Gay noted earlier this month, those numbers are comperable to Lowry's best season with the Raptors.
Unlike Siakam, though, VanVleet won't be in the running for a starting position. Most on our NBA.com Staff agreed that Kemba Walker and Bradley Beal should be the starting at point guard and shooting guard, respectively. VanVleet will therefore have to beat out at least three of Trae Young, Ben Simmons, Khris Middleton, Jaylen Brown, Malcolm Brogdon, Spencer Dinwiddie and Lowry for one of the reserve spots because only six backcourt players - not including Dwyane Wade - were voted as All-Stars in the Eastern Conference last season.
Unfortunately for VanVleet, he isn't far removed from dealing with an injury of his own, but he has played well enough this season to earn some All-Star consideration.
Kyle Lowry, Guard
The Raptors haven't been good enough this season to deserve three All-Stars, so if they do get a second All-Star, it will likely come down to VanVleet and Lowry.
We've already gone over the case for VanVleet. The case for Lowry is that, in addition to being the heart and soul of this Raptors team, he's a five-time All-Star who has better all-around numbers than VanVleet. Not only is Lowry averaging more points, rebounds and assists than his backcourt this season, he's been a more efficient scorer, all while posting a slightly lower usage rate - 22.4 percent for Lowry compared to 22.9 percent for VanVleet.
So why would VanVleet make it over Lowry? It would be because of those 11 games Lowry missed, both because it was a significant amount of time and because of how well VanVleet played.
MORE: Who should start in the All-Star Game?
Lowry has made up for lost time lately, however, with averages of 24.0 points, 8.6 assists and 4.9 rebounds over his last nine games. Lowry had one of the more memorable games of his career during this recent stretch, leading the Raptors to the largest comeback in franchise history with 32 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Kyle Lowry poured in 2️⃣0️⃣ of his 32 PTS in the 4th quarter to lead the @Raptors to a 30-point comeback over the @dallasmavs! #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/MCipCI8s9Y- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) December 22, 2019
Not that Lowry will be leading more 30-point comebacks this season, but if he can sustain his recent play and keep the Raptors near the top of the Eastern Conference standings for as long as Siakam, Gasol and Norman Powell are sidelined with injuries, there's a good chance he'll get the edge over VanVleet.
For what it's worth, it appears as though Lowry has at least one coach on his side in Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics.
Wildcard: Marc Gasol, Frontcourt
There's little-to-no chance that Gasol will be voted in as an All-Star this season - have you seen his numbers? - but he deserves mention because of how valuable he has been to the Raptors defensively.
Let's start with this: Toronto is giving up 99.2 points per 100 possessions with Gasol on the court this season. The only Raptors with a better defensive rating is Stanley Johnson, but Johnson has only appeared in eight games and played limited minutes.
Gasol, on the other hand, has started in every game he's suited up in while logging just under 30 minutes per contest. As our Sergio Rabinal recently broke down, the Spaniard has been the key to the Raptors having one of the best defences in the league following the losses of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to free agency.
Gasol has been particularly dominant against opposing All-Star centres. After keeping Joel Embiid in check during last season's second-round series with the Philadelphia 76ers, the two-time All-Star is averaging only 5.0 points on 16.7 percent shooting through two games against the Raptors this season. One of those games was the worst of Embiid's professional career, as he was held scoreless on 0-for-11 shooting from the field.
Orlando Magic centre Nikola Vucevic hasn't been much better against the Raptors this season with an average of 4.0 points on 10.0 percent shooting through two games.
Again, the odds are stacked heavily against Gasol making his fourth All-Star appearance, but that shouldn't take away from how valuable he has been to Toronto's success defensively this season.
All statistics are up to date as of Jan. 2.
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