After missing the first month of the season Siakam has silenced his critics, eclipsing almost every career-high stat this season.
Siakam is officially back to his 2019 championship form folks
By Joseph Agosti, Contributor
After a rough 2020 Bubble Playoffs, Pascal Siakam struggled his way through the pandemic shortened 2020-21 season, garnering criticism for his lowered shooting percentages as well as the team’s mediocre record as the Raptors missed the playoffs for the first time in Siakam’s career. What made matters worse was the fact that Siakam was in the first year of a four-year 137-million-dollar contract, and his play did not come close to meeting that level.
During Siakam’s best season—the post-championship 2019-2020 season where he stepped into the number-one option role vacated by Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard—Siakam averaged a career-high in points per game at 22.9, career-high in rebounds at 7.3, and led the Raptors to the second seed in the Eastern Conference during a year where much of the American media projected them to struggle without superstar Leonard, instead, the Raptors were second place overall.
Then the pandemic struck, and our world was flipped upside down. On March 9, 2020, the Raptors had just beat the Utah Jazz, a strong NBA team, and were about to start the walk to the end of the season. As we all know, the pandemic hit, and all sports vanished overnight.
Eventually, the NBA season would return inside the Bubble in Orlando, with the Raptors facing a severely depleted Brooklyn Nets team without its best players Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant due to injury. The Raptors smoked the Nets sweeping the series 4-0.
The Boston Celtics swept the dysfunctional Philadelphia 76ers which led to a matchup against the Raptors in the second round. The Raptors and the Celtics were two very similar teams, with two stars in Siakam and Jayson Tatum, as well as veteran support pieces like Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby, Kemba Walker, and Jaylen Brown respectively. Before the series started the matchup between Tatum and Siakam was heavily hyped by the media in both Canada and the United States. Tatum, a young star in the league had just come off a stellar season and was ready to go head-to-head with Siakam, a very similar player. So, who came out on top?
Answer: Tatum, and it wasn’t even close. The Celtics star led Boston to a seven-game victory which really could have been over in five or six if OG Anunoby hadn’t hit a miracle buzzer-beating three-pointer in game three to save the Raptors from going down 3-0.
While the Raptors were arguably behind the 8-ball starting the 2020-21 season by playing in Tampa Bay often in front of crowds filled with opposing fans, Siakam carried his postseason struggles into the year. In a game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Siakam fouled out and walked off the court and into the dressing room. Normally in the NBA, when a player fouls out, they hang out on the bench for the rest of the game with their teammates. Siakam didn’t do that and the Raptors suspended him for the next game vs the New York Knicks.
The rest of the year did not get much better as the Raptors had their worst season in years and missed the playoffs. Siakam’s shooting game fell off a cliff as his once respectable three-point rating fell to an anemic 29%. Siakam clearly had some things to work on that offseason
And boy did he ever respond to the criticism. After missing the first month of the season Siakam has silenced his critics, eclipsing almost every career-high stat this season. Siakam is currently averaging more rebounds, steals, assists and minutes than he ever has in his six-year career. While he didn’t make the all-star team, he is making a major push to be included on an All-NBA team when the season concludes.
Now that there are only a few more games left in the year, and with the Raptors clinching a playoff spot, Pascal Siakam can focus on getting sharp for what could hopefully be a long playoff run as the Raptors’ number one scoring option, just like a certain Kawhi Leonard before him.