The Toronto Raptors starting unit has been dominating their competitors this year. The unit of Lowry, Green, Leonard, Siakam, and Ibaka is a plus 28.1 per 100 possessions on the year. While most of this is the work of stars Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, the versatility of the other three can’t be discounted; specifically forward Pascal Siakam. Siakam has been overlooked in his first two years in the NBA, but he was a large part of the effective Raptors bench unit last year and has been a solid piece in the Raptors rotation his first two years in the league.
We’ll start with defense because it’s where Siakam is at his best. NBA Math has Siakam with the most defensive points saved for a loaded Toronto defense, mostly due to his ability to switch and pick up every position on the perimeter. This comes from his strong 6’9” frame, 7’3” wingspan, and quick footwork. Here he stays with all star guard John Wall to block a pullup jumper and switches onto Bradley Beal and blocks his attempt at the rim:
Bball index recently came out with their new talent grades for every NBA player. Siakam is rated in the 90% percentile in terms of interior defense. In large part due to his work as a weak side rim protector.
On the offensive side of the ball Siakam has a very intriguing skillset. He adds little value as a spot up shooter, only .83 points per possession, which only puts him in the 28% of all NBA players. Also, he is very poor at posting up with a meager .77 points per possession. So what value does Siakam add on the offensive side of the ball?
Well, he is great at attacking the rim on drives from the perimeter. Outside of Siakam the Raptors starting unit is full of great 3 point shooters, which allows for Siakam to take his man one on one and create for himself. The Bball index talent grades has Siakam as a A- one-on-one finisher; a great mark for a 6’9” forward who can’t shoot. Here Siakam takes Ersan Ilyasova to the rim and spins into a nice finish:
Siakam is also a force in transition as he averages 1.26 points per possession on transition plays good enough to put hi in the 79% of all NBA players. He does this in a number of ways. Siakam can push the ball in transition and drive all the way to the rack. In this play he drives right at Kyle Kuzma and punishes him with again a spin layup:
He also excels in transition by filling the lane. The Raptors have a ton of above average passers and he gets the rewarded on plays like this:
Siakam also has surprising ball skills which help to push the ball. He has a very tight handle and can create space in transition. Really I just wanted to include this clip where he spins around a diving Lebron and jumps from far out for the beautiful finish:
An underrated part of Siakam’s game is his work on the offensive glass, averaging 2.2 per game. He often crashes down after a drive and looks for a board. Here he follows up Lowry’s drive and jumps right over KCP for the rebound. From there he has an easy finish under the basket:
Pascal Siakam is a great complementary piece to a dominant Raptors starting unit. His versatility as a defender and ability to create his own shot is great for a teams 5th option. Siakam has been a great find by Raptors GM Masai Ujiri at the end of the first round in 2016 and the 23 year old should continue to develop. Siakam’s ability to switch on defense is absolutely huge in today’s league. The Raptors have a real asset in Pascal Siakam. If he ever can add a perimeter shot to his game he could be a premier role player in today’s modern game.