The new No. 1 in Toronto
If the Toronto Raptors are to have any hope of returning to the NBA Finals this season, they’ll need the 2018-19 NBA Most Improved Player to keep getting better.
Indeed in Pascal Siakam, the defending NBA champions believe they have a budding superstar and their solution to the offseason departure of offensive juggernaut Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers. But is he capable of stepping in as the No. 1 scoring option on a contending team?
As the No. 2 option last season alongside Leonard, the 25-year-old forward from Cameroon certainly showed the potential. In just under 32 minutes per game in 2018-19, he averaged 16.9 points on an impressive 55 percent shooting, to go with 6.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and .7 blocks. His 37 percent shooting from three-point range showed a marked improvement from his previous two seasons in the league, when he averaged around 20 percent.
But that was with Leonard drawing the opposing defense’s attention, thus creating open looks for players such as Siakam. If the New Mexico State product can prove he can shoot from downtown off the dribble with consistency and improve his playmaking abilities, thus creating opportunities for his teammates as Leonard did for him, the Raptors could have a real shot at playing once again in June.
The Dinos will raise their first-ever championship banner at Scotiabank Arena when they begin the 2019-20 regular season at home against the New Orleans Pelicans as the first game of an opening-night doubleheader airing Tuesday, Oct. 22, on TNT.
Name: Pascal Siakam
Birth date: April 2, 1994
Birthplace: Douala, Cameroon
Height/weight: 6 feet, 9 inches/230 pounds
Teams: Toronto Raptors (2016-present)
College: New Mexico State
Draft: Selected in the first round (27th overall) by the Raptors in 2016
Honors and achievements: NBA Most Improved Player (2019); NBA champion (2019); NBA D-League Finals MVP (2017); WAC Player of the Year (2016); WAC Freshman of the Year (2015)