Pascal Siakam is putting the finishing touches on the best season of his young NBA career.
In 77 games, the third-year forward is averaging 17.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 0.9 steals, all of which are career-highs. Having gone from being a key part of the Toronto Raptors' second unit last season to their second-leading scorer - among many other things - makes him one of the leading candidates for this season's Most Improved Player award.
Siakam talked about the hard work he put in over the offseason in preparation for this season in a conversation with Scott Van Pelt of ESPN on Wednesday, but he also mentioned the impact Kawhi Leonard has had on his development since he joined the team. Siakam said watching the three-time All-Star work on a daily basis has inspired him to "go out there and work on my game."
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"I think coming in, we all knew what type of player he was and I think, for me, just having him every night, how he works every single day - he's in practice, working on his game and he's a professional," Siakam said. "Just seeing that for me kind of inspires me to go out there and work on my game as well.
"He would come every day, work hard and he would do what he was supposed to do and come on the floor and play for how many minutes he's out there and give everything he's got."
That hard work has paid off for Leonard as well, as he's averaging a career-best 26.8 points per game on 49.4 percent shooting from the field and 36.9 percent from the perimeter. He's back to being an MVP candidate after missing all but nine games last season due to injury.
With Leonard and Siakam having career years, the Raptors have the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference locked up with a 56-23 record.
We'll soon find out if they can parlay that into a deep postseason run.