How Pascal Siakam Quickly Became My Favourite Raptor
Spicy P might just be the best story coming out of this Raptors season. We’ve quite literally watched him turn into a star before our eyes. He’s shot up to the top of the Most Improved Player discussion and earned some All-Star buzz when voting time came around. Thankfully, more and more people are realizing the potential that Siakam possesses; some are even arguing he may win an MVP one day.
Beyond this season, Siakam has created optimism throughout the Raptors fan base regardless of Kawhi Leonard’s off season decision. If Kawhi does leave, the Raptors will need someone to step up and fill his spot and Siakam is increasingly looking like he will be that guy. Although there won’t be a full-blown superstar on the team, Siakam (as long as he takes another step) will more than likely be a good enough replacement to keep the team somewhat competitive and interesting. On the other hand, if Kawhi ends up staying, Siakam will turn out to be one of, if not, the best second option in the league making the Raptors poised for continued deep playoff runs.
After DeRozan was traded, I needed to find a new favourite Raptor and Siakam quickly earned that status. Here’s why:
He’s A Bit of An Underdog Story
Siakam actually didn’t start playing the game of basketball in a competitive manner until he was nearly 18 years old. When he was 11, his father enrolled him in a school to teach him to be a priest. A dream he didn’t share. On a day in 2011, Siakam joined some friends to attend a free basketball camp hosted by NBA player Luc Mbah a Moute. The main reason for his entry was the basketball reputation his family carried (all three of his brothers had scholarships for basketball in America). After returning to the camp for a second year, Siakam was invited to appear at the Basketball Without Borders camp where Raptors GM, Masai Ujiri, got his first look at him.
Eventually, Siakam joined his brothers when he attained a scholarship to play for New Mexico State. He was there for three years but played just two years (redshirted his first season) and won both Western Atlantic Conference Sophomore of the Year and Western Atlantic Player of the Year. Because of that he rose the ranks and fell into the first round of the 2016 NBA draft being picked 27thoverall by the Raptors. As you can see from this draft review, this wasn’t the most loved pick:
It’s an extremely improbable story and one of my favourite sports stories to this day. He’s come a long way from a kid in Cameroon who’d never really enjoyed the game of basketball.
Consistently Getting Better
Siakam has made a colossal leap in just these first 60 games or so for the Raptors. Like I said in the intro, he’s been catapulted as the only “real” candidate for the MIP award. He’s set new career highs (in points) a total of 7 times this season now standing at 44, the same as MVP favourite Giannis Antetokoumpo.
However, real Raptors fans will know this wasn’t the first rise in his short career. Siakam took a big step from his first year (2016) to his sophomore season. He went from a casual bench player to a crucial part of the best bench in the league. Coming into this season, a lot of people (including myself) thought Siakam was close to reaching whatever his ceiling was being projected at. Not only has he destroyed that but has me believing his ceiling could be higher than most of the “best” young players in the league.
Hardest Working Player
This is one of the most noticeable traits about Siakam; all you have to do is watch the games to recognize this. He plays with more energy than anyone on the court, he hustle’s every possession and his consistent improvement demonstrates his persistency in the gym.
Always Having Fun
Siakam has not only developed his game but his personality as well. As he’s been put more and more in front of the spotlight, he’s shown how likeable he really is. If you haven’t already, listen to Zach Lowe’s podcast with Spicy P from earlier this year.
On top of how great he is in the media, he’s just as good with his teammates. Whether it’s on the bench, on the court or in practice, there’s a smile. He’s the ultimate “glue guy”. I talked in the last section about how crucial he was in the bench’s production last season but he was just as impactful in giving the “Bench Mob” their memorable identity. He always was front and centre leading the bench’s celebrations and emotion during play.
Might Have the Best Signature Move in the League
This might be the hardest to argue. But if it’s not the best signature move it’s probably the most fun to watch. The way he can be travelling at full speed, spin so effortlessly and have the ball kiss the backboard at the most perfect of angles to fall into the hoop. It’s a work of art. If you still don’t believe it, watch a couple minutes of this video.
As Siakam has grown into an all-around borderline star, it’s been hard not to fall in love with him. He’s everything you want in a player. By the time next season comes around, he’s going to be asked to step up whether Kawhi stays or not. He’s shown his ability to escalate roles and will most definitely do so next season even if that role is the second fiddle to Kawhi.
It’s either now or next season, but your love for him is inevitable. You might as well start now.