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If the Pascal Siakam narrative feels eerily familiar to a Raptors’ story line from last season, it should.

The Toronto Raptors are one season removed from a draft night trade which landed the Milwaukee Bucks 46th pick Norman Powell and a protected top-14 first round (2017-2019) draft pick. Tanking has long been a common strategy for franchises to capture potential star talent. But, rarely does a prospect outside the lottery, let alone a late second round pick offer instant gratification. Yet the defiant, serious Powell encapsulates the true meaning of ‘winning the lottery’.

Dwane Casey’s preference for defensive minded players and untimely injuries may have offered Powell the opportunity. However, the Raptors’ fan base knows the Pow Pow ascent was inevitable. Driven to succeed, the inimitable Powell simply made it impossible for Casey to keep him off the court.

Now with an unexpected, (for the most part unknown) 27th pick the Raptors’ republic is wondering if lightning has struck twice.

To be fair, the primary focus centered on what Masai Ujiri would do with the 9th pick linked to the Bargnani gift that finally stopped giving. Although not quite the interloper Bruno Caboclo was considered in 2014, Pascal Siakam was no less a mystery to most.

Post draft, I graded the Pascal Siakam selection B+. Obviously I was much higher on the pick than most. Granted I’d spent some time prepping for a draft prospect series. After reviewing the available data and a number of videos I compared Siakam’s ceiling to Bismack Biyombo with an offensive upside.

Where Siakam differs from Biyombo is his offensive skill set. Though he still needs to evolve in terms of his variety and shot selection there, are signs of his potential.

I’m higher on Siakam than most pundits. Again, with just 4 years of organized basketball under his belt his accelerated growth speaks to his natural talent, work ethic, and high basketball I.Q.

Basics:

    • Height: 6’10” (Basketball reference lists him as 6’9″ but all the predraft metrics listed him as 6’10”)
    • Weight: 230
    • Country: Cameroon
    • Position: Power Forward
    • Age: 22, 258 days
    • Standing Reach: 8’11.5″
    • Wingspan: 7’3.25″
    • Max Vertical: 37″
    • College: New Mexico State, sophomore

2015-16 NCAA stat line:

In his 32 games last season with New Mexico State the sophomore posted per game stats of 20.4 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 2.2 blocks.

ESPN ranked New Mexico State 117th, so the power forward’s stats should be considered with caution. However, Siakam was the best player on the Aggie’s squad and performed well against top competition. In the game versus 32nd ranked Baylor and facing future lottery pick Taurean Prince (12) Siakam scored 26 points, had 10 rebounds, an assist, 2 steals and a block.

Most analysts pre-draft warned of his limited offense and lack of experience. If I had to point to the one factor which impressed me during the prospect reviews it was his accelerated growth specifically in terms of shooting range and efficiency.

siakam-ncaa-stats

The most important stat is missing in the above basketball reference profile. In 2014-15 Siakam took just 16 shots outside the paint connecting on 3 for 18.7%. In 2015-16 he attempted 308 shots from outside the paint making 135 for 43.8%. That’s well over a 1,000% increase in attempts and a 25.1% increase in efficiency!

Considering the talent selected in the lottery portion of the 2016 draft, it’s also worth noting the number of categories where Siakam ranked in the top 10:

  • Field Goals Made – 4th with 274 (Buddy Hield was 2nd with 301)
  • Offensive Rebounds – 9th with 132 (ranked 13th in defensive rebounds)
  • Total Rebounds –  8th with 395
  • Rebounds per game – 8th with 11.6rpg
  • Player Efficiency Rating – 6th with a 31.5 rating. Of note Jakob Poeltl was 9th (31.1), my favorite for the Raptors  first pick Denzel Valentine was 14th (29.7) and Ben Simmons was 19th (29.0)
  • Defensive Ranking – 4th (86.7)
  • Defensive Win Shares – 2nd (3.4)
  • Win Shares – 4th (7.8)

Comparisons:

As for my early Bismack ceiling, plus offense comparison, you have to remember the Raptors were fresh out of the playoffs. In all fairness some of the videos probably influenced me as Pascal reveled in the crowd’s roar, akin to Biymobo at the ACC. Casey has likened him to former Raptor Amir Johnson (high praise). A host of others have offered a wide range of comparisons:

  • More skilled Dennis Rodman (with a lower rebounding ceiling)
  • Jordan Mickey
  • Luc Mbah a Moute

Though I meant no disrespect by my initial assessment, I think Pascal himself provided the best answer:

No offense to Bismack Biyombo, I’d rather be the first Pascal Siakam

What happens in Vegas, doesn’t always stay in Vegas:

Many Raptors fans got their first look at Pascal in his brief appearance in Vegas Summer League. In 15 minutes he scored 12 points snagged 2 offensive rebounds, added a steal, and was a plus 21. But, it was the non-stat related items that caught my eye. Running the wings to spread the floor, boxing out under the basket, and following a shot to position himself for an offensive rebound.

2016 Preseason stat line:

In 5 preseason contests Siakam’s per game averages are impressive. Sure he’s logged minutes versus other training camp invites, but he’s also faced the likes of Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

  • Minutes: 20.4
  • Points: 7.6
  • FG%: 54.8%
  • Free Throws: 40%
  • Offensive Rebs: 2.2
  • Defensive Rebs: 2
  • Total Rebs: 4.2
  • Assists: 1.4
  • Steals: 0.8
  • Blocks: 1.2
  • Plus/Minus: +3.2

Strengths:

Nose for the ball: Whether it’s knowing where to position himself for a rebound, when to leak out on the wing, passing to an open shooter prior to defense collapsing or cutting off passing lanes his instincts are razor sharp. Sure, he still speeds up the game at times and occasionally takes unnecessary risks. To that end, how many times have we complained about Ross or Valanciunas not doing those things even after years of film work and coaching? So, when you factor in Siakam’s natural feel for the game and ability to process complex concepts quickly it’s easy to understand the excitement.

Passing: The assists don’t jump off the page rather, you see the potential for Pascal to grow in this area. Notably, Ross and Valanciunas  combined total assists is less (6). Every game there has been a heady pass made by Siakam, once again demonstrating that natural skill and instinct.

Effort/Motor/Energy/Passion: Biyombo fathered a Nation with these assets. Siakam also has them, but he accompanies it with a calm confidence that gives him a cool factor.

Ability to Guard Multiple Positions: Although he’ll need to add size and strength to guard front court players on a consistent basis I’ll direct you to Siakam’s two most appealing defensive skills.

  • Cat-like Reactions/Timing: It may have thrown Siakam for a loop recognizing his first defensive assignment would be the lanky unicorn Kevin Durant.  Unabated he welcomed  the challenge at one point with a great block on Durant.
  • Lateral Movement: If I had a dollar for how many times I’ve heard “he needs to work on his defensive slides this summer” I’d be a very rich lady. The fact that 6’10 Siakam is quick enough to do it to guards gives me shivers.

Overall Defense: His athleticism is never more apparent than when he’s on the offensive glass and utilizes his quick second jump to grab the offensive board. And although he’s spent time on the court versus back-up units he’s also been on the court with the Warriors Super 4, and the Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. Despite that, he’s never had a minus differential. .

Weaknesses:

  • Like most rookies not valued for their shot or offense, Siakam is inconsistent. He’ll benefit from the Raptors coaches who have had success working with players to expand their range and fix any shot abnormalities.
  • Siakam’s inexperience will present some obstacles. Conversely, not having to break bad habits is a positive, especially with his penchant for picking things up quickly.
  • With Siakam’s quickness it’s more important for him to increase his strength than his bulk, especially with the NBA leaning toward increased pace and small ball line-ups.
  • Further development of fundamental skills and building consistent habits is vital. As good as he is on the offensive boards, his success is more a result of his instincts and energy. If he works to improve his technique and how to utilize his length he could become dominant in an area he already performs well in.
  • While his defense is his forte, he still has plenty to learn with regards to help defense

Contract:

The Toronto Raptors signed Siakam through to the end of the 2019-2020 season on an extremely economical rookie-scale contract. The final 2 seasons have team opt outs. With salary caps soaring due to incoming TV money, the resulting effect is players like 30-year old Timofey Mozgov garnering 4-year, $64 million deals. At his best Mozgov produced 10.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks and not in the same season. Consider the beloved former Raptor Biyombo who signed a 4-year $70M deal. Biyombo just completed his best season with 5.5 points, 8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks.

Imagine if Siakam continues his accelerated growth and turns into anything close to what is projected for him.

siakam-contract

Recent twist feels like Powell deja vu:

When I began writing this profile I was fully prepared to suggest tempering expectations and hoping the amicable youngster would follow a similar path to Powell. But, with recent developments, it seems the youngster may see minutes at the ACC far sooner than anyone expected.

Originally Siakam was expected to contend for minutes at the power forward and center positions. But over the past week it was announced Siakam is being primarily slotted in the small and power forward positions. This revelation makes for interesting water cooler discussion.

Asked if it was a difficult adjustment or causes any difficulty for him.- Siakam responded

No, from the beginning I always said I guard multiple positions. For me, no it’s not a surprise. I’ll play wherever the team wants me to play. I think my ability to move my feet and guard multiple positions is definitely going to help me in that transition. ”  

Pascal went on to say he is a quick learner, but is immersed in all the new elements. He says mastering the shot is matter of repetition and developing confidence.

Perhaps this decision came about due to necessity. Fred VanVleet appears destined for the 15th roster spot to ensure depth at the point. Now with Terrence Ross nursing an injury and the Raptors wanting to be cautious with DeMarre Carroll‘s minutes it highlights another roster hole at small forward.  What that means is he has already impressed enough of the coaching staff to recognize his versatility on defense. The final 2 preseason games should offer some insight on whether Siakam will begin the season with the varsity squad or the Raptors 905.

Certainly this equation has me pondering all the different iterations of line-ups it could foster. If Casey elects to play another hockey reserve line-up could we see a Corey Joseph, Powell (or TRoss), Siakam, Patrick Patterson, and Lucas Bebe Nogueira line? Imagine the  pace, athleticism and defensive upside that line offers. Or, remove Bebe, move everyone up one position with Ross inserted at the small forward.

Conclusion:

Pascal Siakam’s story feels more like fodder for a movie plot.- his father’s love of the NBA and praying one of his 4 sons would one day be in the Association. Then mere months before his youngest son Pascal would recognize that dream, he was killed in a car accident.

As exciting as Pascal is on the court, he is equally engaging off it. Clearly he has a solid character which exudes humility, desire, and charm.  This too, points to how successful Masai Ujiri and the brain trust have been at establishing the Raptors identity.

And maybe it’s cliche to say it, but it feels like he belongs here. But then again, I’m someone who believes lightning can strike twice!


  • LeeZ

    Nice piece. I’m loving the idea of him matched up on the offensive end with a smaller small forward. Quibble: you might want to replace “emanates” with “exudes” in this sentence: Clearly he has a solid character which emanates humility, desire, and charm. (“emanate” means to originate from or be produced by).

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      Appreciate the suggestion, I did pull up the definition to confirm it was the word I wanted to use. Emanates: give out or emit (something abstract but perceptible) Synonyms: EXUDE, emit, radiate, give forth.

      But I’ll oblige

      • LeeZ

        Son of a BITCH, I was WRONG! How is that even possible, lol! Didn’t even know “emanate” could be used that way. Learn something new every day, I guess…(give out or emit (something abstract but perceptible).)

        • Tamberlyn Richardson

          LOL.. it’s okay I decided exude was probably better so you learned something and got me to change my text so a double victory!

          • LeeZ

            Personally, I blame Trump.

            • Tamberlyn Richardson

              LMAO good one

  • Pong

    Great summary. Question though, is it actually Duane or Dwane Casey. I’ve it spelled either way…

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      Thanks, I did change it to Dwane but I’ve also seen it spelled Duane. Believe you are correct though. So many different spellings for that name too. Dwayne Wade, Duane Washington Dwane Casey, Dwaine Dillard. LOL

    • Noelle

      Would seem the only respectful thing to do is spell the way he does? Dwane

  • Mike$

    Wow fantastic summery. So much info there i’m going to have to read it again when i get more time. He’s an exciting player and looks to be a good pick so late in the draft. People slept on him because of the lower competition he played against.

    Just one thing “Siakam’s inexperience will present some obstacles. Conversely, not having to break bad habits is a positive”.

    This seems strange to me, and ive read it a lot with other players with little experience. Similar to saying Bruno is like a blank slate. Everyone that plays basketball has certain instincts that they tend to go to whether experienced or not. These instincts can be very hard to overcome and new players have them as well. A really good example of this is jumping to contest mid range shots and 3’s. This is something that new players to the game constantly do and i’d consider it a bad habit thats hard to overcome. Another instinct that players have is putting the ball low before going up to dunk (get more power to explode to the rim). Bigs need to be taught to keep the ball up high which feels unnatural. Its a bad habit that almost all new players have to break (and some players never do).

    I understand that people that have played the game since young could have had more time to ingrain bad habits but they have also have had time to get lots of the bad instincts taught out. New players have their own bad habits that still need to be broken, not really much of a blank slate.

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      Yeah, I get your point. As noted I see both sides of the coin. I listed it as a weakness for the very reasons you mention. The difference with Siakam is he has amazing instincts combined with a high I.Q. and he processes things so quickly.

      Imagine the kid takes 16 shots outside the paint and can’t hit the broad side of a barn and within a year he shoots over 300 and hits close to 45%. Already we see his potential to stretch out even further. I’m just so high on him b/c he can put the ball on the floor, can work in the post and isn’t afraid to do the work to push his range out further. AND this is his weakness (offense). Look at TRoss who is gifted naturally as well. But only at the end of last season was he finally comfortable adding a drive component to his game. (which thankfully he did and it has paid dividends b/c now players can’t just guard him at the line). Siakam seems to know instinctively when he should do certain things.

      JV and Ross both have moments of being fine passers but neither average high assists. I watch Siakam and believe he’ll become a very decent passer b/c he knows when to pass and who to pass to. Every single game I’ve seen him make a pass that opened the floor or drew people to him to open the floor.

      Even the way he discusses the game. When they asked him about the difference between NCAA and NBA I laughed b/c most rookies say “oh the speed, man, the speed” Pascal said, I need to be better on the pick and roll, with my help defense, knowing when to hedge and recover. I was amazed at how he was dissecting his game.

      Seems like I’m gushing right? LOL… I wasn’t kidding when I said I was really happy with this pick. Ideally I’d rather have seen him spend the first few months in Mississauga but hey if opportunity knocks, answer the door.

      • Mike$

        Yeah he had some immense improvements in college. Shows how committed he is to work in the offseason. He seems really mature for his age which really helps as well. While i don’t really see him ever being a major offensive weapon, with his passing, potential shot and speed he won’t be a negative either. I could see him getting a bucket or 2 a game just beating his guy down the court.

        To me a lot of what he can do offensively is going to be determined by how much his shot continues to progress. If guys are forced to play him he could really make use of his speed and dribbling. His ability to potentially guard 3 positions on defence is whats so intriguing. Im glad we picked him over guys like skal

        • Tamberlyn Richardson

          absolutely, you hear it in the podcast I was elated we took him. Now if the 2 Brazilians could just develop think of that length and all 3 at least can either hit the 3 or are working on it.

          Oh & I’m anxious to see Pascal & Patterson play some minutes together

          I’m with you regarding him not needing to be an offensive juggernaut But I believe his upside is so massive coupled with his IQ. Some don’t think Masai drafts well but all 4 of Delon, Norm, Jakob & Pascal are quality people who have a desire/work ethic & at least some skills . Pretty sure Masai wanted Chriss & Pascal but that damn Vlade had to screw everything up. lol

          • Mike$

            I’m pretty doubtful about Bebe ever developing. In his interviews he talks about learning the PF and practicing 3’s all summer which isn’t what Casey asks of him. He might be improving, but its in the wrong areas to see time with the Raps. Hopefully he comes out and sets good screens, rebounds and plays good defence because thats the only way he’ll get the minutes to start showcasing his unique skills. Poeltl’s coming for his minutes and is willing to do the dirty work on top of being skilled.

            Still high on bruno though. His D has been really good against some NBA talent in the preseason. Great D on Gali which was his biggest test. And his last few months of the Dleague were really good. He really stuffed the stat sheet. Long way to go still but he’s improving and will always have that extremely high ceiling.

            Yeah no complaints about MU’s drafts. He’s done a really good job imo. More time is needed to tell how good though.

            • Tamberlyn Richardson

              Yep, I’m still ALL IN on Bruno. I think he has shown real improvement and he’s still so young. Not having 905 in his rookie season hurt his development but last season his growth was tangible. In an ideal world he has massive “game intel” growth spurt this season at 905 lending itself to some minutes at ACC post All Star.

              If not I’m still excited to see the day both Bruno & Siakam are on the court with another big. Exciting future in Raptorland.

      • Wild-ling #1

        Here’s my thinking, Tamberlyn:

        Pascal’s development is being accelerated because he’s been brought in, specifically, as a lynch-pin of the plan to stop LeBron James.

        Slowing down LeBron’s unique combo of strength, will, quickness, ball-handling and passing has to be viewed as THE DEFINING challenge of the Raptors 2016/17 season. I’m sure they went over and over this question in the two months between last season and the draft …

        Because (no offense, naturally) DeMarre Carroll can’t do it alone – and certainly not for 40 minutes a game. LeBron is longer, and out-weights him by about 40 lbs. Other big bodies can help (JV, Sullinger, etc.).

        But having DeMarre and Pascal “tag-teaming” LeBron – each FLAT OUT – for 5-7 minute bursts, say, might go long way to containing him – and wearing him down, night after night.

        I believe that’s why Casey has already said Pascal will be brought long as a 3/4. Pascal was about 20 lbs heavier than Carroll 6 months ago (at the draft combine). He’s quick and relentless. He’s longer than LeBron. And they had to think of something …

        So I’m salivating at the thought. Could work. 🙂

        • Tamberlyn Richardson

          I like that thought .. you know how much I like the Cavs…. NOT

          🙂

  • justsayin

    I like the Bo Outlaw comparison. Lanky, wiry, everywhere on the court. Finally the raps have some size, speed, and above the rim athleticism in the front court. I really like this guy.

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      Moi Aussi.

      I almost felt responsible for the comparison b/c I did the podcast right after draft and made that comparison. But we were barely removed from the post season & watching tape of him I just kept seeing energy, defensive instincts. I can’t even tell you how much he’s grown just over the summer. It’s cray-cray

  • Plenty of Wing Span

    Rudy Gay Trade —> Greivis Vasquez —>Norman Powell + Clippers 2017 1st pick (18th – 26th pick)
    #makeonetradekeepgiving

    Winning too much? —> Low pick 2017—-> F U HATERZ GONNA PICK A GEM —-> PASCAL SIAKAM
    #scoutingandsmarts

    • Noelle

      All summed up so far, Rudy Gay——> PPat, Bebe, Powell, Clippers 2017 1st pick, Bargs—–> Poeltl. The sun is shining in Raptorsland!

  • Noelle

    As always, quality work Tamberlyn

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      Thanks Noelle, good to be back. How was your summer?

      • Noelle

        My summer was awesome, thanks. Hope yours was too! Happy you’re back too ;). Are you still doing the Rockets too? Should be fun following the high octane offense, ha.

        • Tamberlyn Richardson

          Yep .. crazy busy. I’m also doing 3 podcasts a week on All In Sports Talk Radio. Tamberlyn’s Tip Off on Mondays & TTOTambz & BBoyz on Fridays are NBA shows, GAMZ is Weds is all female hosted all major sports show. Free app for All In Sports Radio for i-phone at i-tunes store & for android/blackberry at google play store. So yeah… I basically never sleep lol

          As for the Rockets, at least I won’t have to deal with the Howard vs Harden nonsense all season. It was crazy last year b/c Raptors were such a cohesive unit & Rockets couldn’t stand to look at each other. Opposite ends of the spectrum

  • steve fisher

    Excellent overview ! After seeing him in the first half of his 1st summer League game I was very excited by his ENERGY, SPEED, B/Ball IQ, REBOUNDING, and ability to finish at the hoop !!! WOW ! His Best skill will guarantee

  • n8

    One skill you didn’t specifically mention that I think gives Siakam elite potential is his top speed. Not only does he have a motor, but he is seriously fast for his size, he’s a blur running down the middle of the floor in transition. He’s gonna have tons of points this year even on made shots where he just gets wide open layups because he’s several steps ahead of his defender. It can be a career defining trait if he improves on being able to make decisions at that speed, like a pull up jumper or rip through attack before the defense is fully back.

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      You are correct. It was implied by my comments regarding his ability to run the wings, lateral movement etc. and notes he shouldn’t add too much “bulk” & focus on muscle instead.

  • Tragic Mugatu

    This was a really thorough & useful primer. Don’t have much to add about Siakam but just wanted to give you a heads up that it looks like some of the math got jumbled up in the part about his shots outside paint. (16 -> 308 is close to 1000%, not 52%, so I’d imagine you’d want a number that huge in there to help make your point)

    • Tamberlyn Richardson

      LOL… I was so tired & I looked at that number & said to myself that can’t be right but I just couldn’t process the math. Thanks

      • Tragic Mugatu

        The math is right but I think the number we want is 1825% (since the original 16 he started with is factored out when discussing % growth, so it’s 292/16 rather than 308/16)

        Sorry for typing 1 thousand instead of 2 thousand in my initial post btw. Truly shameful to put a numbers mistake in my own comment about number mistakes smh

        • Tamberlyn Richardson

          No problem, try doing that math on no sleep LOL

  • artreddin

    Excellent write-up.

    Just a note on the math, however: going from a shooting average of 18.7 to 43.8 % is a brute difference of 25% but not a 25% increase. His shooting was roughly 2.5 times better or, more precisely, “showed a 234% increase”.