2018-19 Off the Glass Breakout Player Series: Pascal Siakam
With the 2018-2019 NBA season upon us, Off the Glass is making predictions on who breakout players from each team will be. Today we look at Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors.
Last year the Toronto Raptors had the best bench in the league. Fred VanVleet got most of the love and rightfully so, but there was a player on the bench that had even more potential. That player is Pascal Siakam. His rookie year he was in and out of the rotation, but he took a big step last season. His numbers were up across the board, and the Raptors unleashed him defensively. This year the Raptors are expecting more of Siakam. He has started three of the four Raptor games, and while the numbers are about the same, you can see signs of improvement.
What he means to the Raptors
Siakam is a 6-9 230 pound power forward, who can play some small ball five as well. He is one of the few players in the league who can honestly guard every position. Remember last season when he defended John Wall in the playoffs. He has been abusing guards on switches for a while now. Watch this!
Poor Ricky Rubio. What Siakam does to him here is mean. Siakam is switched onto Rubio on the top of the key. Rubio drives at him, but he goes nowhere. He tries for a stepback jumper, but Siakam is there for the contest forcing Rubio to bring the ball back down. From there Rubio is stranded, and Siakam rips the ball out of his hands. This is textbook defense by Siakam.
This is why Siakam fits the modern NBA and is so essential to Toronto. To guard the Golden State Warriors and the best offenses in the league, you need to be able to switch everything. That is how the Houston Rockets gave the Warriors a tough series last year. The catch is not all teams can do it based on personnel. Toronto can and Siakam is a big part of that.
Siakam is also vital on offense as well. He knows his role and is efficient. He runs the floor faster than a horse at Belmont and can finish. His shooting from three and the free throw line has a way to go, but he has found ways to be effective on offense. Mainly in transition, where he ranked in the 83rd percentile last year. Toronto was a middle of the pack team in terms of pace last year, but when they ran, Siakam was usually involved.
Siakam intercepts the bad Marcus Morris pass here. As soon as he does, he gets the ball to Delon Wright, and then literally outruns everybody to catch the lob and finish with a mean slam. Few players are faster than Siakam from one end of the court to the other.
What we learned through the first four games
It has been a small sample size, but the Raptors starting Siakam in three of the four games says a lot. The coaching staff knows his importance to the team. Offensively, the most significant difference of Siakam this year is his face up game. Usually, he plays within the system, but this year he is looking more aggressive. Siakam is using his athleticism and quickness to take bigs off the dribble.
Siakam gets the ball on the right wing and immediately goes to work. He hits Kevin Love with a crossover and then two more dribbles to get to the lane. Siakam does a good job attacking Love's chest to shield him away so that he can finish over him. When Siakam sees a mismatch, he is exploiting it.
His three-point shooting so far this season is two for five. So 40% on an extremely small sample size. The good news is he is taking what the defense gives him and not forcing any of them. Siakam doesn't need to be a high volume shooter, but if he can make enough that the defense has to respect him from out there, then the Raptors offense can hit another level.
Defensively, Siakam is still a force. His rebounding and shot blocking have been better. He has a career-high 13.7 rebounding ratio. Defensively, the Raptors are stingy with Siakam on the floor posting a 97.7 defensive rating. That is 13th amongst all forwards that have played at least twenty minutes per game.
What to expect for the rest of the season
Expect Siakam to play 20-30 minutes per game for the rest of the season. It looks like he will start most of the time, except for a few specific matchups. Keep an eye on his shooting from three and the from the free throw line. That will dictate how many minutes he gets. There is so much to like about Siakam. He can guard all positions, play two positions and has improved his efficiency. He is shooting a career-best 53% from the field while rebounding at a career-best rate. As the Raptors go through the season and especially in the playoffs, Siakam will become even more critical. His numbers may not jump out to you, but Siakam is a stud and vital to the Raptors. Keep an eye on him this year; he is getting better every game.