After the Toronto Raptors won the 2019 NBA Championship, the team’s superstar, Kawhi Leonard, signed with the Los Angeles Clippers in the off-season. Pascal Siakam needed to improve his game if the Raptors wanted to compete at a high level after Leonard’s departure- he answered the call. Siakam improved his scoring from 16.9 points in 2019 to 22.9 points per game in 2020. While Toronto lacked a definitive superstar without Leonard, Siakam became an All-NBA player after winning the title.
Siakam posted career-high numbers in scoring and assists in the 2022-2023 season, averaging 24.2 points and 5.8 assists. He shot 52% from the field as Toronto’s number-one offensive option. However, Siakam’s glory days on the Raptors seem to be taking a turn.
His numbers have dropped dramatically compared to last season. It seems evident the franchise has given the keys to third-year player Scottie Barnes, who is leaping into stardom to begin this season. Siakam’s usage is way down compared to last season, averaging just 16.7 points per game- his lowest since the championship season. His name floated around in the trade market all off-season, and it is safe to say it has been a bumpy road for Siakam and the franchise, getting off to a 3-4 start.
Siakam’s Rough Offensive Start
Through the first seven games of the season, the Raptor’s forward only carries a 21.1% usage compared to 27.1% last season. Barnes’ rise plays a big role in Siakam’s diminished usage. Still, a player with his skill should not be experiencing a significant decrease like this- especially after a career-high scoring season last year. Fred VanVleet also signed with the Houston Rockets, which, on paper, would give Siakam greater opportunity.
The star forward is phased out of the offense in the half-court. He is taking four fewer shots per game at 14.2 compared to 18.5 last season. Siakam has only eclipsed the 20-point mark twice in the young season, with 20 against the Portland Trail Blazers and 26 points against the Milwaukee Bucks. While the 26-point performance looks great on the surface, it only came on the back of unrealistic efficiency (9-13 FG).
The Raptors do not have a great half-court offense. Head Coach Darko Rajakovic consistently preaches creating turnovers with aggressive defense and scoring easily in transition. 21.2% of Toronto’s points come via the fastbreak, which ranks first in the league. Siakam is not new to this system because Head Coach Nick Nurse preached the same offensive philosophy during his time in Toronto. When he cannot score on the fastbreak, Siakam is finding difficulty settling into an offensive rhythm.
Confusion Between Both Parties
Siakam’s name appeared in many trade rumors throughout the off-season, most notably with the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers. However, the star forward said he would not play for a team that traded for him. He wants to stay in Toronto. Even though Siakam clearly expressed his desire to stay with the Raptors, both parties can not agree on an extension to avoid Siakam’s unrestricted free agency after this season. The Raptors are not ready to offer Siakam the contract extension he seeks. As a result, the front office should try to increase his worth to make a more lucrative trade and avoid losing him for nothing in free agency.
Strangely, Rajakovic has not featured Siakam more in the half-court offense. Typically, teams exploring trade offers want to “sell high.” This refers to trading a player who is playing well to receive maximum value back. Currently, Siakam is having his worst offensive year since 2018-2019. This statistic only lowers his trade value and puts Toronto at risk of receiving fewer impactful pieces back in a potential deal.
In addition to being phased out of the offense, Siakam has done no favors for himself to earn the contract extension he seeks. As a leader with his pedigree, he has to take initiative in these situations. Unless he changes his mind and decides he wants to leave Toronto, Raptors fans should expect Siakam to increase his value to the organization.
If Siakam and the Raptors both diminish his value, this saga ends badly for both parties. The organization will trade him for less than his value, or he will enter unrestricted free agency and possibly leave the team. This is a time for the front office and its players to work together.
Michael Kobrinsky is a writer for Back Sports Page. He studied communication and journalism at North Carolina State University and graduated in May of 2023. Michael lives in Atlanta, GA, and primarily writes basketball content for Back Sports Page. Outside of a career in writing, you can find him playing golf, basketball, and video games. Follow Michael on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pinwizard300.
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