With the NBA season being suspended indefinitely, we're taking the next couple of weeks to roll out our Raptors Report Cards on each key member of this season's team. The plan? Take a closer look at how everyone performed, from Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam to Terence Davis and Chris Boucher.
First up: Pascal Siakam.
It's crazy to think that we came into this season wondering if Siakam could be an All-Star. While he earned some All-Star consideration with his play last season, there was skepticism as to whether or not he had another Most Improved Player-type leap in him, this time to be the No. 1 option on a Raptors team that still had plans of competing even without Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
Now, of course, we know. Not only was Siakam named an All-Star for the first time in his career, he was voted in as a starter alongside the likes of LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and Kawhi Leonard. It's fair to wonder if he's capable of being the true No. 1 option on a championship contender, but Siakam has asserted himself as one of the league's best players with his play this season, not just one of its rising stars.
His stats speak for themselves. Through 53 games, Siakam is averaging career-highs of 23.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.9 blocks per game on 45.9 percent shooting from the field and 35.9 percent from the 3-point line. The Raptors have been a different team with him on the court, going from scoring 112.8 points per 100 possessions with him in the lineup to 106.8 with him on the bench, which represents the largest differential on the roster.
Combine all of those numbers with Toronto's 46-18 record, and Siakam has a strong case to make one of the three All-NBA Teams.
MORE: Siakam earning All-NBA could complicate matters for Raptors
The only part of Siakam's offensive game that has taken a hit since last season has been his efficiency, but that was to be expected given how much his role has changed.
As I wrote around Thanksgiving, Siakam has basically turned himself into a completely new player for the third season in a row. Back in 2017-18, he generated the bulk of his scoring on spot-ups and in transition. It was a similar case last season, although he started to dabble in creating some of his own offence, mostly in the post.
This season, Siakam is doing a little bit of everything.
He's still generating a large chunk of his offence in transition and on spot-ups, but Siakam has basically doubled the frequency with which he's scoring in isolation and pick-and-roll. He ranks around the league average in efficiency on those plays, an impressive feat considering this is the first time in his career that he's been the focal point of the offence.
Blake Murphy of The Athletic put it best recently: "Siakam's true shooting percentage has dropped from 62.8 to 55.9 this year, taking him from an elite scorer in a moderate role to a moderate scorer in an elite role." With his four-year, $129 million extension kicking in next season, the hope is Siakam will continue to improve as a scorer in an elite role in the years to come. What's important is that he's proven this season that he can handle a star-like usage.
Siakam's evolution as a shooter has played a big role in his growth as a scorer.
Last season, almost all of his 3-pointers came in the corners and were set up by one of his teammates. It's something the Philadelphia 76ers exposed in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, as Joel Embiid essentially ignored Siakam when he had the ball outside of the paint, daring him either to settle for jump shots he wasn't comfortable taking or challenge one of the league's best defenders at the rim.
MORE: How much better can Siakam get?
The need for Siakam to expand his range as a shooter was the focus of one of our Summer Workout Plans for him because it gave other teams the blueprint for slowing him down. He's done just that, blossoming into a more versatile 3-point shooter, one who can create his own 3s. According to NBA.com, he has gone from making a total of two unassisted 3-pointers last season to 41 this season. Instead of being limited to spot-ups in the corners, Siakam has shown that he can make off the dribble 3s from above the break.
Siakam put that side of his game on full display in a win over the New York Knicks at the midpoint of the season. Up by three points with under a minute to play, he drained a pull-up 3-pointer from above the break to ice the game. It's not a shot he would've thought about taking last season, even if the game wasn't on the line.
Give it to Siakam and get out the way.- Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) January 25, 2020
Dagger at the Garden 💥 pic.twitter.com/BW7HJxcQDo
That's not to say it's been a flawless season from Siakam. As I alluded to at the top, he still has a ways to go before he's a true No. 1 option on a championship contender.
Our Micah Adams covered in detail how Siakam has struggled to elevate his game against the best of the best this season following Toronto's most recent loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. The next step is for him to get to a point where he can go toe-to-toe with the likes of James, Antetokounmpo and Leonard in addition to beating up on the likes of the Knicks, New Orleans Pelicans, Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns.
The playoffs will be a big test for him in that regard.
"We expect him to take an even bigger jump come playoff time," Raptors head assistant coach Adrian Griffin told Adams over All-Star Weekend. "Teams are going to send multiple bodies at him and he's going to have to be able to navigate it."
Will he be able to navigate it? Time will tell, but it shouldn't take away from how well Siakam has played to this point of the season. After all, we came into this season wondering if he could be an All-Star. It didn't take him long to silence anyone who doubted that he could get there.
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