In today’s NBA the ‘Unicorn’ is one of the hottest commodities on the market.
A tall, athletic player that seems to be unburdened by the restrictions his height should have on his game. Giannis, Kristaps and KD are just a few examples – true genetic freaks that are every opposing coach’s worst nightmare. But Nick Nurse may have himself a counter for such a player, his 25-year-old Cameroonian G-League Finals MVP.
Pascal Siakam has unveiled himself as the next heir to the Northern Throne.
With Kawhi’s future in Toronto completely unknown to anyone, ‘Spicy P’ has given Raptors fans serious hope for the future of their franchise.
At 6’9” and 230lbs, the third year man seems undersized for a power forward. But with a 7’3” wingspan and 8’11” standing reach, Siakam’s true potential is noticed – defence.
The lateral quickness that Siakam possesses allows him to cover the court in a flash. Quick closeouts mixed with his lengthy and wiry frame allow him to contest almost any jump shot on the perimeter, forcing his opponent to drive inside to the sea of bodies that the Raptors have around the rim. His ability to move his feet as quick as he does means he is almost unbeatable off the dribble, and even when he does get beaten he manages to recover back and be a worthy presence close to the bucket.
Pascal’s Offensive Rating is higher than Giannis’ and his Defensive Rating is equal to Paul George. His Net Rating, amongst players who play 25 or more minutes per game, is 10th best in the league.
Not bad for a 27th pick.
When comparing Siakam’s 2nd year in the league to his 3rd, it is almost unbelievable. He has improved in every single traditional statistical category. His 3P% leapt by almost 17%, his points per game more than doubled, from 7.3 to 16.9, even his field goal percentage went up another 5 percent even when taking 6 more shots per game than last season.
Siakam really seems to thrive in the Raptor system. Nick Nurse’s luxury of having such a depth of shooters on his roster allows him to match Siakam with practically any player and still result in a bucket on the offensive end.
The danger of his drives forces defences to collapse on him, allowing dishes to the perimeter and open shots. His above average handle for the power forward position means that Toronto is more than happy to let him grab the defensive rebound and spark the fast break.
Despite his aggressive play style in the transition, there still seems to be some rawness to him every few possessions which is easily exploited by better defenders. When he takes the ball towards the rim, he loves to avoid contact and attempt athletic finishes instead of going up strong. By removing such unnecessary movements, he would be able to go to the line a lot more and be more efficient with his scoring.
Siakam represents the counter movement of a huge swing in the analytics trend of the NBA. The ‘Do It All’ player, the player that is so physically dominant on the game that they have the ability to single-handedly swing the course of a playoff series.
Pascal is the zag to that zig, he is the quick and nimble defender that has the ability to guard almost any position, he is the defensive presence that is designed to target unicorns.
Siakam is an absolute stud on both sides of the ball, his 44-point outburst during the season when Kawhi was resting really allowed him to shine and gave Raptors fans a glimpse into the possible near future.
If we do end up seeing Kahwi in Clipper colours at the start of next season, Siakam will be handed the keys to the Toronto system. With a Siakam-led defence, we may truly be able to see the Unicorn Killer that he has the potential to be.