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Pascal Siakam, A Player Worth Investing In

On October 26th, 2016, Dwane Casey placed a young rookie from Cameroon named Pascal Siakam into the starting lineup. Siakam took 2 shots, scored 4 points, and nabbed 9 rebounds while being a +16 in 21 minutes of action. 

Last night he dropped a career-high 52 points on the hottest team in the NBA, missing only 8 of his 25 shots, to help his Raptors team snap a 6-game losing streak. 

If you said you knew Siakam would be this type of player 6 years, 1 month, and 24 days ago when he made his NBA debut? You’d be a liar. 

Back then, Siakam was a player who only scored in transition on leak-outs, and only scored in a half-court setting thanks to DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry drawing the help and dumping it off to him in the dunker spot. 

He was your prototypical hustle-and-bustle player. Always willing to outwork the opponents. Dive for loose balls. Take the charge. Your everyday man in the NBA, as a rookie, fighting tooth and nail to prove his worth. He was one of the worst shooters in the league. He had no way to create shots for himself or others. 

And if you took a time machine from his rookie season to Madison Square Garden last night – you would think you traveled to an alternate reality.

The difference between rookie Siakam and Siakam today is that stark. 

And yet, despite that, looking back on his career and the steps he’s taken, his historic performance inside the Mecca of Basketball comes as no surprise. 

As Siakam was probing and manipulating his way to a career night that included 9 rebounds and 7 assists and a steal on top of his ludicrous scoring output – I couldn’t help but marvel at what I was witnessing. 

Not because I was surprised at what Siakam was doing – on the contrary – it’s because this sort of stuff has become habitual for the 28-year-old star. Routine, if you will. 

Not the scoring 50+ points and doing it in basketball’s most famous arena part – in fact, Siakam is just the 10th visiting player in history to do so at MSG joining an impressive cast of NBA legends – but it’s how he got to that number – 52. 

By manipulating the Knicks help defense to see where the double is coming from so he can evade or find the open man. 

By taking on countless Knicks defenders 1-on-1 in isolation, getting them on an island, and feasting. 

By absolutely dominating the mid-range area, going 6 of 9 on a healthy diet of tween, hesi, crossover into a pull-up or fadeaway jump shot. 

By hitting 2 threes, 1 spot-up, and 1 pull-up.

By attempting 18 (!!!) free throws and hit 16 of them despite struggling from the line this season. 

By scoring or assisting on 70 of the Raptors’ 113 points in a 7-point win.

Whenever the Raptors have needed him (which was a lot) Pascal Siakam delivered.

52 points. 23 shots. Only 8 missed shots.

— Esfandiar Baraheni (@JustEsBaraheni) December 22, 2022

That historic outing by Siakam was an encapsulation and culmination of the work he has put in, in countless areas of his game, through 6 years, 1 month, and 24 days to become the superstar-level player he is today. 

I’d be remiss not to mention the importance of this performance and this victory in the context of the Raptors’ season. 

Starring down the barrel of a 7-game losing streak and sitting at 10th in the Eastern Conference, (something Siakam and crew haven’t experienced much in their careers in Toronto) with looming questions and uncertainty about what could happen to this core of Siakam-Fred VanVleet-Scottie Barnes-O.G Anunoby-Precious Achiuwa at the trade deadline of – Siakam delivered in an emphatic way against the sizzling hot Knicks, riding an 8-game win streak. 

From an outside perspective, you may find it trivial that a team at 13-18 coming into last night’s matchup, with an array of talent, young and old(er), is in “panic mode” in mid-December over a 6-game losing streak. 

But the Raptors, truthfully,  have been flat-out bad. Lackadaisical and inconsistent defense, combined with abhorrent shooting stretches and no ball movement has had many questioning the legitimacy of this core as currently constructed and the sturdiness of Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster’s ‘6-foot-9 vision’.  Injuries and key players missing time have only made it that much more difficult to seek answers from within. 

And certainly, some of those questions remain unanswered. The team still has a long way to go before returning back to form – and shaking things up via trade isn’t necessarily out of the question just yet. 

But not Siakam. Throughout, he has been their steady hand, their calming presence, the lighthouse guiding the ships safely along a foggy coast. I don’t know man – he’s been their saviour

The guy you just can not trade. 

And by putting up that performance, at that moment, with those stakes, he proved that the very top of the Raptors structure is formidable. 

That the 27th overall pick out of New Mexico State University, hailing from Cameroon is worth investing in, building around, and finding help for. 

So Siakam has now put the pressure on the Raptors, to go out and find that for him. 

The type of pressure only a superstar/franchise player could ever apply. 

A player that Siakam has molded himself into. 

6 years, 1 month, and 24 days later.