NBA

How Pascal Siakam and the Raptors are Getting it Done Without Kawhi Leonard

Even with the departure of Kawhi Leonard, the Toronto Raptors are still doing well so far in the 2019-20 season. They still have great talent, including veteran big man Marc Gasol, emerging superstar Pascal Siakam, All-Star guard Kyle Lowry, and Serge Ibaka, though the latter two suffered brutal injuries recently. Still, the Raptors remain in the hunt for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. So how are they getting it done?

The growing superstar in Pascal Siakam

Regardless of the initial concerns, the Raptors have not shown any signs of an NBA championship hangover, even though the season is still young. The reason behind this is the stunning performance of Pascal Siakam. He is evolving into a two-way player and is covering an essential vacancy for the Toronto Raptors. That means the Raptors have another MVP-caliber player to replace Kawhi Leonard.

Some people think that Siakam is even performing better than they expect, with more pressure subjected to him to atone for the loss of Kawhi to the free agency. 

The Raptors are not surprised by Pascal Siakam’s effort. Maybe the schedules have accelerated a bit, and they’re eager to know what he can do with more responsibility. They, therefore, had the Cameroon native sign a four-year, $130 million extension before this season, and he has indeed proved to be a great defender and scorer. Last year, he became the league’s Most Improved Player and had continuously shown versatility ever since.

Pascal Siakam’s 2019-20 season so far

Siakam has achieved at least 30 points on three occasions, which ties him with Leonard, Kemba Walker, and James Harden for the most in this season’s NBA. Actually, aside from DeMar DeRozan, he is the only player in Toronto’s history to have at least three 30-point outings in the regular season’s first five games. 

Siakam helped the Raptors top the Milwaukee Bucks 4-2 in their marquee matchup in the 2019 postseason with their best player Giannis Antetokounmpo present. 

The Raptors embraced a similar starting lineup during this season’s first five games with Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet, and OG Anunoby

Just as expected, Siakam is drawing raves early on and is doing excellently on defense, too. Even though he is a 6-foot-9 power forward, he is a fierce defender. Siakam held New Orleans guard Jrue Holiday to four points in this season’s debut game against the Pelicans. 

The Raptors shine on the court

Other players are stepping up as well. In their game against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, Serge Ibaka managed to score 19 points in 32 minutes. He is now leading or tying the bench in scoring in all this season’s games. OG Anunoby is also doing well as he scored 13 points in their game against Detroit and raised his career in rebounds three times this season with eight. This season, Anunoby opened all his games after opening six times in his sophomore campaigns. 

However, besides the offensive numbers, the Toronto Raptors are continuously proving to be hard to score under their coach Nick Nurse. 

The Raptors keep winning without a lottery pick on the roster

With Pascal Siakam leading the way, the Raptors are doing just fine without Kawhi Leonard on the roster.
Fred VanVleet (from left), OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, Raptors coach Nick Nurse, and Kyle Lowry. | Cole Burston/Getty Images

Besides winning the first NBA title in franchise history and the first for Canada, the Raptors set another record with their 2019 championship. They were the first team to take the title with zero lottery picks on their NBA Finals roster since the lottery started in 1985. 

The key to success isn’t just talent found late in the draft, though. The Raptors continually show resilience and belief in each other. The departures of Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard may weaken them on paper, but they are still achieving great things even with the absence of these two superstars. 

Toronto’s current players are taking their absence as an advantage. They are now shining in the court, with Siakam shining the most. Siakam is one player that will take the raptors to greater heights. He is impressive, down to earth, and this is what makes him so unique. He now has the chance to showcase himself against Kawhi.