Welcome to "One Possession!" Throughout the 2019-20 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff will break down certain possessions from certain games and peel back the curtains to reveal its bigger meaning.
Today, Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam takes the spotlight.
Context: Pascal Siakam put on a show in Toronto's win over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday. He finished with a game-high 30 points, 19 of which came in the third quarter when the Raptors took complete control of the game. He was 8-for-12 from the field in the third quarter alone, getting it done at all three levels - at the rim, from midrange and from the 3-point line.
Possession: Siakam's final basket of the third quarter came in the form of a midrange pull-up over Pistons forward Christian Wood.
Breakdown: With the clock winding down in the quarter, Siakam waved off Serge Ibaka, who was coming to set a screen for a pick-and-roll, to attack Wood in isolation.
It wasn't a bad idea. Not only did Siakam have it rolling, he was one of the more efficient isolation scorers in the league last season. According to NBA.com, he averaged 0.97 points per isolation possession, ranking him in the 73.0 percentile alongside LeBron James and Blake Griffin.
Siakam has already scored 17 points in isolation this season, the ninth-highest mark in the league. With his speed at his height, he is an absolute nightmare for forwards like Wood to keep up with on an island.
With the floor cleared, Siakam sized up Wood and hit him with a left-to-right crossover around the 3-point line.
Knowing almost all of Siakam's isolation possessions ended with him driving to the basket last season, Wood wisely began sliding towards the paint. Thon Maker and Langston Galloway helped Wood wall off the paint by helping off of their defensive assignments.
Rather than bulldozing his way to the basket, Siakam stopped on a dime just inside the 3-point line and pulled-up for a midrange jumper. Wood was able to get a hand up, but Siakam used his 7-foot-3 wingspan to shoot over it.
Why it matters: After the game, Kyle Lowry said Siakam was "taking the shots that he's been working on" during his third quarter run.
He wasn't lying.
According to NBA.com, Siakam made a grand total of two pull-up jump shots last season, doing so on 10 attempts. Through five games this season, he's already 5-for-10 on those very same shots.
Three of Siakam's makes have come from behind the 3-point line. The two others - both of which came in Wednesday's game - have come from midrange.
The 3s are always going to get more attention than the 2s, but they're equally as important for Siakam's development. As I detailed this offseason, Siakam was somewhat of a predictable scorer last season as almost all of his scoring came in the corners or in the paint. It didn't hold him back in the regular season, but it became a factor in the playoffs when teams started to put their centres on him and dared him to shoot from outside the paint.
Because Siakam wasn't comfortable taking those shots yet, he ended up forcing layups and floaters over the long arms of Joel Embiid and Brook Lopez. That's why him knocking down a midrange pull-up over Wood is so encouraging - those are the types of shots teams were willing to give Siakam last season.
Siakam even broke out a Dirk Nowitzki-like fadeaway for his other midrange pull-up in the game. Doing this isn't something that would've have even crossed his mind last season:
Ultimately, this will only help Siakam become the player the Raptors are now paying him to be. Whereas he was more of an opportunistic scorer alongside Kyle Lowy and Kawhi Leonard last season, he's showing a new-found confidence to take whatever shots the defence is willing to give him.
Not only that, he's making them.
In the words of Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, Siakam is "turning into a primetime scorer" before our very eyes.
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