NBA Trade Rumors: Toronto Raptors Star Pascal Siakam Could Be a Major Difference-Maker for a Championship Contender

When Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam looks across the way on Monday and sees Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry — a teammate the previous five seasons — he might get a glimpse into his future.

Lowry, whose name is all over the Raptors’ record books, plays for the rival Heat after departing Toronto last summer. Siakam, the subject of trade rumors for months, could also find himself wearing something other than Raptor red if the franchise trades him before the Feb. 10 NBA Trade Deadline.

Following offseason shoulder surgery, Siakam is back to playing at an All-Star level

Toronto Raptors All-Star forward Pascal Siakam battles in the post against Phoenix Suns superstar point guard Chris Paul during the first half of their NBA game at Scotiabank Arena. | Cole Burston/Getty Images

Trade rumors swirled much of the offseason about Toronto potentially moving Siakam, and that might have happened had the forward not been recovering from shoulder surgery.

Siakam didn’t debut this season until Nov. 7 because of shoulder surgery. He once again resembled the 2019 Most Improved Player and a 2020 NBA All-Star following some brief early struggles. He averaged 22.6 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 4.6 assists in December despite a bout with COVID-19 and has followed that up with 24 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 6.4 assists in January to jumpstart the Raptors.

Toronto won six in a row between Dec. 31-Jan. 9, highlighted by two masterful performances from Siakam against the World Champion Milwaukee Bucks. After hanging 33 on the Bucks in a Jan. 5 victory, Siakam hit the Bucks with a 30-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist game on Saturday in another Toronto win.

Pascal Siakam’s relationship with Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse has been rocky

Forced to play in Tampa, Fla., during the 2020-21 season because of Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions, the Raptors seemed doomed to fail.

It didn’t take long for their frustrations to boil over. Pascal Siakam fouled out near the end of a third straight loss to open the season, and rather than remaining on the bench, he went straight to the locker room. For that “disciplinary matter,” head coach Nick Nurse suspended Siakam for one game.

Later, as the Raptors were in the midst of a dispiriting nine-game losing streak that would torpedo any chances of keeping their playoff streak alive, Nurse and Siakam reportedly had another locker room blowup following a Mar. 21 loss in Cleveland. Siakam wasn’t suspended, but the incident made it clear that there were lingering issues between the star and the head coach.

Trade rumors involving Siakam resurfaced last summer following the NBA Draft. Toronto President Masai Ujiri passed on Jalen Suggs or Davion Mitchell — potential guard replacements for Lowry — and selected Scottie Barnes. A multitalented, 6-foot-9 forward with skills similar to those of Siakam, Barnes was seen by some as Toronto’s future at power forward. As it turns out, Barnes has developed into the leading candidate to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award while coexisting with Siakam.

Siakam said he never took the trade rumors of last summer seriously.

“It didn’t bother me really because I never really heard anything from the Raptors,” Siakam told The New York Times. “Even all the news I was seeing it was never like: ‘Oh, the Raptors wanted to give up Siakam for this.’ It was always like, ‘The Warriors like Pascal’ or ‘The Kings like Pascal.’ There was never nothing where it was like, `The Raptors wanted to give away Pascal.’”

If traded, Siakam would be a major difference-maker to a championship-contending team

Toronto’s recent six-game winning streak and their third defeat of Milwaukee got them 21-19 and eighth in the East standings. Ujiri, maybe the best talent evaluator in the NBA, knows his franchise isn’t winning it all this season. Therefore, he has a decision to make with Siakam.

Trading Siakam opens up more playing time for the exceptionally talented Barnes once his sore knee improves. Also, flipping Siakam for a couple of young players and or draft picks could significantly speed up the Raptor rebuild.

If he would agree to play in Canada, Ben Simmons could solve Toronto’s point guard issues in exchange for Siakam. Chicago, whose skid has shown it must trade for talent, could offer Coby White, Ayo Dosunmu, and Patrick Williams.

Golden State might be willing to offer James Wiseman or Jonathan Kuminga, but luxury tax issues persist. Phoenix, Utah, Memphis, and Dallas could all use the talent upgrade at power forward that Siakam would provide.

While Siakam’s talent is appealing, teams might be wise to avoid calls from Ujiri, who rarely gets the short straw when trading or picking in the NBA Draft. Still, Siakam will almost assuredly be available before the NBA Trade Deadline, and it will be interesting to see what team is willing to gamble on the talented but occasionally troubled power forward.

All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com.

RELATED: Fred VanVleet Has Become the Raptors’ New Kyle Lowry With All-Star Production and Strong Leadership