This past June, Pascal Siakam did his best to give basketball fans a serious case of deja vu. The budding superstar shined in the spotlight of the NBA Finals, averaging 23.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in the four wins it took for the Raptors to secure their first title in franchise history.
Such a performance was incredibly reminiscent of his NBA G League Finals play just two years prior. Emerging as Finals MVP for Raptors 905, Siakam boasted 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists per game in that series. This strikingly similar stat-line should have served as foreshadowing for what was to come, but what was truly remarkable is how quickly this ascension came to fruition for the 25-year old.
Alas, Siakam cut his teeth on the minor league hardwood, and it’s worth reminding that he wasn’t the only Raptor to do so. The organization invested in a culture and put faith in the hope that donning a Raptors 905 jersey would prepare key players for even bigger moments. The likes of Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, and Chris Boucher were among them. Two-time NBA G League championship winning coach Nick Nurse was also tabbed to lead the way as he won his first big league title as well.
This accomplishment undoubtedly stands tall for all involved, but no one is primed to make even more of a jump than Siakam as the 2019-20 NBA season gets underway.
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) June 25, 2019
The big man’s rapid rise officially put the rest of the league on notice. Thanks to his impressive NBA G League play, people knew it was coming. Having now emerged as an NBA G League alum turned NBA champion, his rise is here and the competition must be ready.
The postseason (and the Finals stage, even more in particular) is where heroes are made. Siakam’s 16.9 points per game in the regular season were enough to earn him the 2019 NBA Most Improved Player Award on the campaign, but his play with an NBA championship on the line suggested he’s ready to assume star potential. He’s continued to embrace the brightest of lights and all summer long had an opportunity to bask in that well deserved winner’s glory. Deservedly so, the Raptors rewarded him a multi-year extension.
But now a new challenge awaits.
Siakam’s Finals run was special by any measure, but it’s worth noting that he performed while appearing as the Robin to Kawhi Leonard’s Batman. As the 2014 NBA Finals MVP himself, Leonard was a well known talent that opponents like the Golden State Warriors knew to prepare for. As such, Siakam was able to wait in the wings and embrace a bit of offensive freedom. Things may have come easier for him while flying under the radar and reaping the benefits of having a partner in crime like Leonard by his side to spread the defense.
With Leonard now leading the Clippers into battle, it remains to be seen if Siakam is ready to wear the hero’s cape all by himself. As evidenced by Toronto’s recent display of gratitude, they believe he is.
One could argue that never before has an NBA G League alum been tasked with this kind of tall order. Siakam will be the starring attraction for the defending NBA champions. From Cameroon to Canada, and a meaningful stop in the NBA G League to help prepare him for the national stage, he continues to break new ground.
With a new basketball season on the horizon, his ability to reach such heights should serve as proof and inspiration for those who look to follow in his footsteps.