After a disappointing series from Pascal Siakam in the 2020 Eastern Conference Semifinals resulting in the Raptors losing in 7 to the Celtics, many were concerned for his future. Though he was a third or fourth option during the Raptors’ 2019 championship run, he was expected to take a leap this year and become the first option on a team who had just lost their Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard. As the season progressed, we began to see Siakam’s growth, as he would flash signs of improved shot creation and a developing three point shot. This would taper off a little as the season wore on, but nonetheless, Raptor fans were very optimistic about their future star.
Then came the playoffs...facing the Boston Celtics, Siakam struggled mightily, shooting an abysmal 18.9% from three. After shooting 36% from three earlier in the season, his percentage soared down a cliff. He even struggled in the post, with the Celtics’ lengthy wings stifling him at every possession. As a result, when the Raptors desperately needed a score, they were forced to look elsewhere, as Siakam was seemingly nonexistent during the final minutes of crunch time. Last year, Kawhi Leonardwas an absolute machine, earning himself the nickname “Terminator” as the Raptors dumped the ball off to him and watched him destroy their opponent. But this year, even though the Raptors finished with a fantastic regular season record, people including myself were skeptical about the team’s composition heading into the playoffs. Could Pascal Siakam fill the Kawhi role? The results this year indicated no, but there is still hope, and lots of it at that.
Although Siakam is 25, there is still a considerable amount of room for improvement. While his on-court production was shaky, many around the league revered Siakam for his incredible work ethic. In just a year, Siakam developed from a member of the Bench Mob, to a key piece of a Raptors championship run, and finally to the number one option on a contending team. Though his playoff performance left a bad taste in fans’ mouths, there is a solution: embracing the midrange.
While his three point shot needs to continue to improve, considering his “bully-ball” playstyle, the midrange could become his number one option. Siakam has showcased his ability to dribble the ball and create his own shot at a respectable level, but it proved to be shaky come playoff time. Looking around the league, every elite scorer can score at any level with ease, and Siakam needs to duplicate that. Diversity is the key. Instagram financial mogul accounts with motivational music booming in the background always use the advice, “diversify your income”. Similarly, elite scorers in the league have all diversified their ways of scoring. Take away their three point shot, a dribble pull up from the free throw line. Play the midrange game, a missile behind the arc. Play aggressive on the arc, get burned on a drive to the rim. I’m not simply arguing, “Pascal needs to become better at everything,” but a reason people could see a different player next year could be the newfound dedication to the midrange game. Expectations next year should not reach Siakam hitting Michael Jordan-esque jumpshots, but rather a solid, developing post and midrange game. Siakam has heard all the noise, good and bad, so don’t be surprised next year when he returns to dominate the court.
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