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Posts Tagged ‘Pascal Siakam

The Raptors loaded up on mildly intriguing prospects and let the odds play in their favor

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Pascal Siakam’s improved play for the Raptors this year is a game changer going forward. At 16.8 pts, 6.9 rebs, 3.1 ast on .625 TS% he has played near all-star level and the best part is the room to get better. He only averages 32.2 minutes and has yet to add the midrange game to his arsenal with only 40 attempts from 10-16 feet and 15 attempts from 16-23 feet this season. At 67 for 188 from 3 (35.6%) he’s also just emerging as a 3pt shooter. It’s easy to see how with more minutes, a willingness to take the midrange shot to keep the defense honest and improving his 3pt stroke how he could make the leap to 20 points per game, especially if the team lost Kawhi Leonard. His elite mobility is also ideal defensively for a power forward for this era and it’s unclear if he’s reached his upside in that area yet. At best Siakam could be the combination of spacing and defense every team wants from a power forward right now while also scoring at an all-star level.

Surely even the Raptors would tell you he didn’t expect to land a potential all-star with the 27th pick. But they didn’t get here by luck either. The last few years the Raptors roster could be divided into established veterans like Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan, C.J. Miles, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas and two seasons ago DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph, and rookie scale prospects making up the “bench mob” in Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Norman Powell, O.G. Anunoby, Bruno Caboclo, Jakob Poeltl, Bebe Nogueira, along with Siakam. Traditional over 50 win teams with finals aspirations rely on veterans for the bottom half of the roster, but Masai Ujiri put his trust entirely on prospects. This acted as a farm system for the veterans who would one day need to be replaced for luxury tax reasons. When they had to trade Cory Joseph’s contract, their backup PG play only improved with the VanVleet and Wright combination. Likewise they had no drop-off when dumping Carroll for rookie Anunoby. If Poeltl had stayed he would have one day replaced Valanciunas.

The outcomes of these prospects however has been as unpredictable as usual. Caboclo never became the player Masai Ujiri envisioned while in Toronto and is only now showing signs in Memphis, and Nogueira is back in Europe. Powell flashed signs of greatness, but his shooting regressed and now his 4 years, 44 million extension is a negative value contract. Wright who is a month from his 27th birthday is running out of time to be more than a solid bench guard. VanVleet has emerged as a huge part of the Raptors playoff chances but has been banged up so much for his generous six feet that he may be best sticking to a sub 30 minute role in his career. Poeltl and Anunoby are too young to judge yet, but Poeltl’s production has fallen behind the big picked after him Domantas Sabonis and Anunoby is working his way through a sophomore slump. In this context it’s not that the Raptors talent evaluation is perfect, it’s that they gave themselves so many shots with the hope one or two went in, which is precisely what happened with the success of Siakam and VanVleet. None of these prospects had the statistical odds of becoming an all-star that a top 5 pick does, but the combined odds of one breaking out were much friendlier.

With that said, filling half a team with credible mid to lower level prospects is easier said than done. In some ways Ujiri repeatedly hitting these singles and doubles in the draft took more skill than just taking one home run lottery pick. Another key move for Ujiri is putting Poeltl in the Kawhi trade instead of Siakam. While moving Ibaka to center made it logical to trade him, Poeltl was the younger prospect with top ten pick pedigree making it a harder decision. If they had believed Poeltl was the potential all-star instead of Siakam he would likely be the one still on the team.

Having a young all-star talent not only makes the Raptors more appealing to Kawhi than just playing with an aging Lowry, but it gives them a future if he leaves. Without Kawhi, if they keep everyone the hope would be Siakam becomes the new Kawhi and a prospect like Anunoby becomes the new Siakam. While Siakam’s improvement was near impossible to predict, by loading up on credible mid level prospects they were able to turn probability to their side as they only needed the best of the group to come out as a gem.

Written by jr.

March 26, 2019 at 12:42 pm