NBA

Maybe Pascal Siakam Isn’t the Budding NBA Star the Raptors Thought He Was

Pascal Siakam came out of nowhere to quickly become one of the NBA’s best up-and-coming stars. Siakam was instrumental in the Raptors‘ 2019 NBA title run, and Toronto fans believed they had the next great superstar in the Eastern Conference.

Siakam had another impressive regular season in 2020, but his playoff performances have been underwhelming, to say the least. The 26-year-old has been the most improved player in the league over the past few years, but Siakam doesn’t look like the leader and superstar Raptors fans thought they had heading into the playoffs.

Pascal Siakam’s meteoric rise to NBA stardom

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When Siakam came into the league in 2016, no one knew the true potential he possessed. He was chosen by the Raptors with the 27th overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, and it took him a while to find his footing in the league.

Siakam played in 55 games as a rookie and scored just 4.2 points per game. The next season, he came off the bench and upped his scoring average to 7.3 points per game. Siakam had established himself as a solid bench option who was a limited shooter, but that perception changed completely in year three.

After showing little signs of upside through his first two seasons as a pro, Siakam made a huge leap to stardom in 2018-19. He scored 16.9 points and grabbed 6.9 rebounds per game in year three. In the 2019 playoffs, Siakam was Toronto’s second-best player behind only Kawhi Leonard en route to an NBA title. He scored 32 points in Game 1 of the Finals and 26 in the clinching Game 6 win.

Siakam won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 2019, and Toronto rewarded him with a hefty contract.

The Raptors gave Siakam a massive contract after his breakout year

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The Raptors were so ecstatic about Siakam’s performance in the 2019 playoffs that they decided to lock him up with a contract extension as soon as they could.

In October of 2019, Siakam signed a four-year, $130 million extension to stay in Toronto. With Leonard leaving the team for the Clippers in the offseason, Siakam immediately assumed the No. 1 role in Toronto.

Siakam stepped up to the new role and scored a career-high 22.9 points per game in the regular season. He made the All-Star team in 2020 for the first time in his career, but his first postseason as the alpha in Toronto hasn’t gone as planned.

Siakam’s postseason struggles might signal he’s not be ready to be a superstar

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Siakam was a revelation in the 2019 playoffs. It’s possible the Raptors don’t win the title without his incredible play in the NBA Finals, but his first postseason as the No. 1 in Toronto has fans worried.

In six playoff games, Siakam is averaging 18.8 points per game on 39.4% shooting. He’s only gone over his average from the regular season once in six games, and it took him 23 shots to get there.

In two games against the Boston Celtics, Siakam has scored 13 and 17 points and is a combined 11-32 from the floor. He’s also 1-7 from three so far in the series.

Siakam thrived in the 2019 playoffs as the Pippen to Leonard’s Jordan. Leonard garnered most of the defensive attention from opponents, and Siakam took advantage of the mismatches he drew. Now, Siakam is the alpha of the team. The Raptors thought he was ready to jump into the No. 1 role and become a top player himself, but that hasn’t panned out yet they way they hoped.

Siakam has plenty of time to turn the tides, but his first postseason without Leonard isn’t what Raptors fans expected to see out of their supposed superstar.

All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference