The continued rise of Pascal Siakam

The legend of Pascal Siakam is slowly growing in Toronto. The Raptors have been home to many superstar players in the past, and currently houses one of the best two-way players in the league in Kawhi Leonard. Yet, the solid play of the Cameroonian forward has ensured that he is in the forefront receiving accolades.

When he was announced as the current the Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Siakam joined a select company of only eight players from the franchise to earn the honor. Some, like the departed DeMar DeRozan (10), Vince Carter and Chris Bosh (seven each), and Kyle Lowry (four) have won the award multiple times. Siakam, along with Mike James, Jalen Rose and Lou Williams have won just once each. But that single time introduced Siakam to the select company, because in the current team it is only Lowry and he who have earned that honor.

However, being a rare breed is not alien to Siakam. He was selected by the Raptors with the 27th pick at the 2016 NBA Draft, and just months later became only the second rookie in four years to be named a starter on opening night—in the win against the Detroit Pistons. That year was a busy one for the Cameroonian, as he flitted between the then D-League and the NBA. Had the practise of giving those who play in both leagues two-way contracts been in effect, he would have been one of the beneficiaries.

Siakam played a total of 55 games for the Raptors in that rookie season, and started 38 of them. He also posted a couple of standout performances, including a 14-point showing in the win over the Hawks, and a 10-board blitz in the downing of the Lakers. But it was in the D-League that Siakam showed his readiness: while on assignment with Raptors 905, Siakam averaged 18.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. He played five regular-season games; when they qualified for the playoffs, Siakam was the first name on the teamsheet. And did he put on a show for Raptors 905 fans …

The Cameroonian averaged 18.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists over seven games in the D-League postseason, but he saved the best for last. Siakam averaged 23.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in the three-game finals series, and was named the D-League Finals MVP. So, as it stands the only two players with any championship experience at the Raptors are Kawhi Leonard and Siakam. And he’s playing at an extremely high level.

While his first season was busy and fruitful, his third season has been nothing short of spectacular. Siakam has increased his average points output by almost 100 percent from the 7.3 of last season to his current 14.1 points per game, despite seeing only about a 40-percent increase in shot attempts from 6.1 to 8.9 field goals each night. In order to get that huge scoring increase, the boy from Douala jumped his field-goal percentage from the 50.8 percent of last season to 64.0 this term; and he leads the league in 2-point field-goal percentage with 72.5.

He has also upped his rebounding from 4.5 to 6.5 per game, maintained his assists average at 2.0 per game, and is averaging over one steal per game for the first time in his career. And the last week leading up to the Player of the Week honor had been the most explosive of his short career.

Siakam opened the four-game week with 16 points and seven rebounds in the win against Utah Jazz, and then reeled off three consecutive games where he scored 20 points or more for the first time in his career. The boy from Douala, the D-League Finals MVP, may not be at the same level as NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard just yet, but he’s knocking on the door looking to take a seat at the same table.

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