Pascal Siakam

Community Shootaround: Could Siakam Repeat As Most Improved Player?

Raptors forward Pascal Siakam was the runaway winner of the NBA’s 2018/19 Most Improved Player award, capturing 86 of 100 possible first-place votes, and he was certainly deserving of the honor. Siakam was one of the key contributors for the eventual NBA champions, guarding all five positions and increasing his numbers across the board – including a PPG bump from 7.3 to 16.9 – while scoring even more efficiently than he had before.

So far this season though, Siakam may have taken an even more significant step forward, as John Hollinger of The Athletic writes. After increasing his scoring output by 9.6 points per game a year ago, Siakam has tacked on 10.3 more PPG this season, boosting that number to 27.2 PPG overall. His usage rate has jumped from 20.8 to 30.5, and while his overall field goal percentage has dipped a little, he’s become a more dangerous threat from outside, knocking down 2.3 threes per game at a 37.3% rate (up from 1.0 and 36.9%).

As Hollinger outlines, Siakam has made his latest strides by finding creative new ways to score. He’s a threat in the post, off the dribble, in the pick-and-roll, and from beyond the arc.

Last season, one of Siakam’s Achilles heels was his inability to make above-the-break threes. As ESPN’s Zach Lowe observes (via Twitter), the 25-year-old only attempted 29% of his three-pointers from above the break in 2018/19, making just 27% on those attempts. This year, 75% of his threes are coming from that area, and he has converted 42% of them.

Siakam isn’t Kawhi Leonard – even if his early-season numbers are remarkably similar to Kawhi’s full-season 2018/19 averages – but he has quickly become the Raptors’ new go-to offensive play-maker in Leonard’s absence this season. While his numbers through 11 games may not be sustainable, he looks like an All-Star lock, and if he can maintain anything close to this pace, he figures to be in the All-NBA conversation too. However, the most intriguing Siakam subplot this season may be whether he can win his second consecutive Most Improved Player award.

As Hollinger writes, no one has come close to being named MIP for two straight seasons. Of the last 10 winners, more than half have regressed a year after winning the award, and even the ones that have continued to improve have only taken modest steps forward. But the early returns on Siakam this season suggest he’ll have a case.

There were certainly be other good MIP candidates this season. Brandon Ingram, Luke Kennard, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are a few of the early contenders, though some voters shy away from second-year players, which could hurt Doncic, Young, and SGA. For that matter, some voters are reluctant to pick repeat award winners in general, but the novelty of doing so for an award like MIP that never has repeat winners might actually work in Siakam’s favor.

What do you think? Is it realistic to expect Siakam to be in the Most Improved Player conversation for a second consecutive year? Could he actually win the award again? If you’re not bullish on his chances, which candidate(s) do you like so far?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

Atlantic Notes: Siakam, OG, Burke, Sixers

With the Raptors facing a bevy of injuries, Pascal Siakam will get an opportunity to showcase his point guard skills, as Doug Smith of The Toronto Star relays.

“Depending on what the matchup is, you can do it,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “We’ve got to be careful on it and stuff like that, but it’s good to get a lot of reps of it and see what kind of offense we can run from it. I think we found a few things he can run up there at the point.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • OG Anunoby saw an eye specialist today and has been diagnosed with an eye contusion, the Raptors announced (Twitter link). The forward will miss at least Toronto’s next game on Wednesday in Portland.
  • Trey Burke is capitalizing on the opportunity he’s receiving with Ben Simmons sidelined, Lauren Rosen of NBA.com writes. Burke, who joined the Sixers on a one-year deal this offseason, credits his preparedness for his ability to step into a larger role with the club.“This is a new situation for me – a championship-type organization,” Burke said. “I know I was going to have to be patient.”
  • Quinn Davis of Basketball Insiders breaks down the Sixers‘ point guard situation behind Simmons. In addition to Burke, the team has Raul Neto, and Josh Richardson has been running some point recently.

Atlantic Notes: Barrett, Siakam, Celtics, Lowry

Following the team’s 104-102 loss to Boston on Friday, Knicks coach David Fizdale praised rookie forward RJ Barrett and the durability he has shown, comparing his attitude to 2019 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“He’s really put together. There’s times he’s not sweating and I’m like, ‘Are you going hard?’” Fizdale said, “But he is. He’s playing really hard. The only other guy I saw who I’ve coached against that doesn’t look like is breaking a sweat is Kawhi. Kawhi doesn’t look like he’s breathing (hard). RJ has that same act where he’s out there, his face doesn’t change and he’s going about his business.’’

Barrett, who was selected by the Knicks third overall in June’s NBA Draft, has averaged 17.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 36.5 minutes through the team’s first six games.

New York sports an intriguing young mix headlined by Barrett and center Mitchell Robinson, though the team’s just 1-6 on the campaign. The Knicks have upcoming games scheduled against Sacramento (2-5), Detroit (3-4) and Dallas (4-2) this week.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Raptors star Pascal Siakam is proving his worth in a leadership role with the team, Matt John of Basketball Insiders writes. Siakam, who signed a four-year, $130MM extension with the team last month, has averaged 26 points and 8.5 rebounds through six games. Toronto is seeking its seventh straight playoff appearance behind Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and others, sporting a competitive group despite losing Leonard in free agency last summer.
  • The Raptors need to find a way to reduce Kyle Lowry‘s workload this season, Laura Armstrong of The Toronto Star writes. Lowry, who turns 34 in March, is in his 14th NBA season and is coming off a campaign in which he averaged 34 minutes per contest.
  • Former Celtics star Paul Pierce believes a weight has been lifted in the absence of Kyrie Irving this season, as relayed by Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. “I mean, everybody knows that,” Pierce said. “I’m not even in the building yet, and I’m hearing every day that everybody feels like a weight’s been lifted off of them. Just walking around, you can tell. Or just seeing it on the court. It’s different.”

Atlantic Notes: J. Brown, Siakam, VanVleet, Jordan

Appearing this week on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s ‘Toucher and Rich,’ Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge explained that he and the C’s felt comfortable investing more than $25MM per year in Jaylen Brown because of his “very bright future” and the league’s rising salary cap, as Jacob Camenker of NBC Sports Boston relays.

“Yeah, it’s a bet on his future,” Ainge said. “It’s also the way the league is going. There’s big increases in the salary cap. I’ve been through this 17 years, and I remember when we signed [Rajon] Rondo there was lots of questions, like, ‘What are you doing paying him so much money?’ Same thing with Avery Bradley. Even Marcus Smart, there was a lot of criticism. I just think in two years those contracts turn out to be good contracts, not bad ones.”

A report a few days before Monday’s rookie scale extension deadline indicated that the Celtics had offered Brown $80MM over four years. Ainge denied that report, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said this week on Zach Lowe’s podcast that he heard Boston “improved its offer significantly” right before the deadline (link via RealGM).

“One of the reasons why I think they did that was because…they saw where things were going,” Windhorst said. “If Buddy Hield gets this, then our guys (get this).”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • After officially signing his new contract extension with the Raptors earlier this week, Pascal Siakam spoke to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated about still feeling as if he’s capable of further improvement now that he’s a maximum-salary player. Siakam also discussed the challenges he and the rest of the team will face this season without Kawhi Leonard leading the way.
  • Unlike Siakam, Fred VanVleet won’t be eligible for a contract extension before his current contract expires in 2020. In an appearance on Sportsnet’s ‘Tim and Sid,’ VanVleet said he doesn’t plan to speak about his upcoming free agency much this season, but made it clear his preference would be to re-sign with the Raptors. “I’ve been on record about how I feel about this place,” he said, per Thomas Ketko of Sportsnet.ca. “This organization knows how I feel about this place. So in a perfect world, we know what would happen.”
  • New Nets center DeAndre Jordan was “largely an afterthought” in his debut in Brooklyn, recording just two points and three rebounds in 16 minutes, writes Howie Kussoy of The New York Post. Jordan, who admitted he was “a little surprised” to be coming off the bench, is confident he’ll find a rhythm in his new role. “We’re basketball players,” he told Kussoy. “We have to learn how to adjust.”

How Rose Rule Affects Pascal Siakam’s Extension

Pascal Siakam‘s new contract extension with the Raptors, which will go into effect in 2020/21, is being called a maximum-salary contract, but the actual value of his salaries on that deal will vary depending on two key factors.

The first factor is where the NBA’s salary cap lands for the 2020/21 season, since a player’s maximum starting salary is based on a percentage of the cap. The standard maximum salary for a player like Siakam with fewer than seven years of NBA experience is 25% of the cap.

The league’s most recent salary cap projection estimated a $116MM cap for ’20/21, but that figure is subject to change, particularly if the NBA/China controversy significantly affects the league’s bottom line. Assuming the cap does come in at $116MM, 25% of that figure would work out to $29MM. Siakam would receive 8% raises annually, for a total of $129.92MM over four seasons.

However, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link), Siakam’s new deal with the Raptors also includes “Rose Rule” language. As we outline in our glossary entry on the subject, the Rose Rule allows a player with fewer than seven years of NBA experience to qualify for a higher maximum salary (up to 30% of the cap) if he meets certain criteria.

The rule is named for Derrick Rose, who won the MVP award during his third season in the league. If Siakam matches that feat in his fourth NBA season in 2019/20, his starting salary would be worth 30% of the cap, per Grange.

Making an All-NBA team also allows a player to qualify for that higher max, and teams and players are permitted to negotiate various starting salaries between 25-30% depending on which specific All-NBA team a player makes.

In Siakam’s case, his starting salary will be worth 28% of the cap if he makes the All-NBA Second Team or 29% if he makes the First Team, according to Grange. It appears that a Third Team nod wouldn’t affect Siakam’s starting salary.

The upshot? Here are the four different forms that Siakam’s four-year extension could take, based on a $116MM cap, depending on whether he receives any major honors or awards during the 2019/20 season:

Year Standard (25%) All-NBA 2nd Team (28%) All-NBA 1st Team (29%) MVP (30%)
’20/21 $29,000,000 $32,480,000 $33,640,000 $34,800,000
’21/22 $31,320,000 $35,078,400 $36,331,200 $37,584,000
’22/23 $33,640,000 $37,676,800 $39,022,400 $40,368,000
’23/24 $35,960,000 $40,275,200 $41,713,600 $43,152,000
Total $129,920,000 $145,510,400 $150,707,200 $155,904,000

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raptors Sign Pascal Siakam To Four-Year Max Extension

OCTOBER 21: The Raptors’ four-year, maximum-salary extension with Siakam is now official, the team announced today in a press release.

“Pascal has been relentless in everything he has achieved,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said in a statement. “He has embraced our development philosophies from Day One, he’s one of us and a unique talent. He has improved himself every season without cutting any corners. He is a testament to hard work paying off and we’re thrilled that he will continue his career here in Toronto.”

As we relayed on Sunday, the starting salary on Siakam’s extension can reportedly increase to up to 30% of the cap rather than 25% if he earns a spot on the All-NBA First Team or Second Team – or wins the MVP award – in 2020.

OCTOBER 19: The Raptors have reached an agreement with forward Pascal Siakam on a four-year contract extension that will be worth the maximum salary, agents Todd Ramasar and Jaafar Choufani have informed ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe (Twitter link). The deal doesn’t feature any team or player options, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Siakam, the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player, took a huge step forward in his third NBA season, averaging 16.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 3.1 APG on .549/.369/.785 shooting in 80 games (31.9 MPG). The 25-year-old also showed the ability to guard all five positions and played an important role as the Raptors made a Finals run and earned the first championship in franchise history.

With Kawhi Leonard no longer on the Raptors’ roster, Siakam is poised to take on an even greater role in 2019/20 and beyond. The organization views him as the future “face of the franchise,” tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca.

Siakam is the third player eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason to receive a maximum-salary deal, joining Ben Simmons (Sixers) and Jamal Murray (Nuggets). Simmons and Murray each received five-year extensions, while Siakam got four years — his new deal will lock him up through the 2023/24 season.

[RELATED: 2019/20 NBA Contract Extension Tracker]

Siakam’s exact salaries on his extension will depend on where exactly the NBA’s salary cap lands for the 2020/21 season. Based on the league’s most recent projections, his deal would start at $29MM and would be worth a total of $129.92MM. He’ll earn $2.35MM in 2019/20, the final year of his rookie contract.

With a $30.5MM extension for Kyle Lowry also recently added to the books for 2020/21, the Raptors no longer project to be among the teams with the most cap room next summer. Still, the club could have some flexibility below the cap, with Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, and Fred VanVleet all on expiring contracts this season.

Now that Siakam’s deal is done, Jaylen Brown (Celtics), Buddy Hield (Kings), and Domantas Sabonis (Pacers) are among the most notable young players still eligible for rookie scale extensions before Monday’s deadline.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raptors Notes: Siakam, Anunoby, Bench

Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes how the Raptors locking up Pascal Siakam to a long-term extension may be a byproduct of how the Spurs ended up losing Kawhi Leonard, the player that helped the Raptors win the franchise’s first ever championship last season.

Like Leonard when he was in San Antonio, Siakam was destined for a maximum contract after the Raptors won last season’s title. Like San Antonio had then, Toronto has plenty of cap space this upcoming summer.

Unlike the Spurs, the Raptors didn’t wait to lock up Siakam. As Koreen writes, they want him around and they want him happy. The long-term benefits outweigh the short term repercussion of less cap space.

There’s more this afternoon from Toronto:

  • Per Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, forward OG Anunoby, in a rare podium session, says that he lost 15 pounds following the rupture of his appendix just as last season’s magical postseason run got underway.
  • Michael Grange of Rogers Sportsnet provides some more details on the incentives in the rookie-scale contract extension signed by Siakam, writing that the 25-year-old forward will receive a starting salary worth up to 30% of the cap (not the typical 25%) if he earns First or Second Team All-NBA or is named the MVP this season. That would make Siakam’s four-year extension worth as much as a projected $155.9MM instead of $129.9MM.
  • Head coach Nick Nurse still appears to be rather displeased with some of his newly-signed bench players, reports William Lou of Yahoo Sports Canada. Nurse lauded Stanley Johnson for his defense and effort and Matt Thomas for his offense, but seemed less than enthusiastic about the other side of the ball for both players.

Extension Rumors: Hield, Brown, Siakam

Teams carrying players eligible for rookie scale extensions have five more days to beat the October 21 deadline and lock up those players to long-term deals, with Buddy Hield (Kings), Jaylen Brown (Celtics), and Pascal Siakam (Raptors) among the prime extension candidates.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports has updates on the extension talks for all three players, so let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • The Kings have made Hield a four-year offer worth $90MM, league sources tell Haynes. However, the sharpshooter and agent Brandon Rosenthal are seeking a deal closer to $110MM. Based on the NBA’s latest cap projections for 2020/21, a four-year, maximum-salary contract for Hield with Sacramento would be worth just shy of $130MM, so even a $110MM deal would come in well below the max.
  • Although the Celtics aren’t typically aggressive when it comes to finalizing rookie scale extensions, they’ve put a four-year, $80MM offer on the table for Brown, league sources tell Haynes. However, the swingman, who turns 23 next week, believes in his ability to become a star and is seeking a more lucrative offer.
  • Siakam is the most likely player in this group to sign a new contract by Monday, according to Haynes, who refers to the Raptors‘ forward as a “virtual lock” to be extended. However, it will likely require a maximum-salary offer from Toronto, league sources inform Haynes. A five-year max for Siakam would be worth a projected $168MM, and could even get as high as $202MM if it includes Rose Rule language.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Strus, Thybulle, Siakam

Despite improving his already-impressive arsenal, Sixers star Ben Simmons can’t get caught up in settling for jumpers behind the arc this season, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.

Simmons shocked the Philadelphia crowd as the first half of the team’s preseason game against the Guangzhou Long-Lions came to a close last week, connecting on a deep shot from three-point territory — much to the delight of his fans and teammates alike.

“I know what I’m good at,” Simmons said, according to Pompey. “I know what I’m great at. There’s things I need to work on, but my game is not going to change in a day.

“I’m not going to come out and be shooting lights-out like [Golden State’s] Klay [Thompson] and Steph [Curry] or guys like them. My game is developing, and I work hard.”

As most fans already know, Simmons played the entire 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons without making a single three-pointer. He appeared in 160 regular season games during those campaigns and finished 0-for-17 from deep, which doesn’t include his lone three-point miss in 22 postseason games.

At 6’10” and 230 pounds, Simmons is known to be one of the most versatile point guards in the NBA. His game would be much more dangerous for opposing defenses if the 23-year-old manages to develop a consistent stroke from three-point territory.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • The Celtics moved to sign Max Strus on a two-year deal largely because Strus was willing to add a fully non-guaranteed year in his contract next season, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. Strus has impressed Boston officials with his strong efforts in practice, earning a new deal with the organization on Sunday.
  • Sixers wing Matisse Thybulle looks ready to work for a spot in the team’s rotation this season, Derek Bodner of The Athletic writes. Thybulle, 22, had his draft rights traded from Boston to Philadelphia after being selected with the No. 20 pick last June.
  • The Raptors will need even more production from fourth-year forward and reigning Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam in order to be successful again this year, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. “We’ll give him a lot of freedom and a lot of opportunities to continue to expand his game,” head coach Nick Nurse said, according to Smith. “He should be somebody that has a great season. I think he can expand it and maybe (add) five, six points a game to his scoring average.”

Woj’s Latest: Beal, CP3, Lowry, Iguodala, Siakam

In a televised preseason special on Thursday night (audio link), ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe identified Bradley Beal as a player worth watching closely this season. Beal looks like the most obvious candidate of the NBA’s stars to become disgruntled and push for a trade during the 2019/20 season. However, as Wojnarowski notes, that hasn’t happened yet, and the Wizards are still all-in on trying to retain their All-Star guard.

“Bradley Beal’s got two years left on his deal and the Wizards have not given up hope of signing him to an extension,” Wojnarowski said. “They’ve had a three-year, $111MM-or-so extension on the table for him to take in any form. Does he want two years, three years? Any form he wants, it is there waiting for him. So they are nowhere near the idea of moving Bradley Beal. They want to continue to try to rebuild around him.”

[RELATED: Why Bradley Beal won’t immediately accept Wizards’ extension offer]

As Woj and Lowe point out, a weak 2020 free agent class would make Beal an especially valuable trade chip if the Wizards’ stance changes, but there’s no indication that will happen anytime soon.

“Bradley Beal, if he got on the market, would bring back an absolute ransom because if you want to improve your team in a dramatic way, he’d be the guy,” Woj said. “But Washington’s not doing that. They still want to re-sign him.”

Here are a few more highlights from ESPN’s special featuring two of the network’s top basketball reporters:

  • The Thunder‘s plan when they acquired Chris Paul from Houston was to flip him to another team, according to Wojnarowski, who says OKC had hoped the Heat would be more open to making a deal. “He’s going to have to play really well in Oklahoma City for somebody to want to take on three years, $124MM [and] pay him $44MM in the final year of his contract,” Woj said of CP3. “That’s a really difficult proposition. … He has value in the league, but not at those numbers.”
  • Woj and Lowe think Raptors guard Kyle Lowry would generate a lot of interest on the trade market if Toronto becomes open to moving him. Both ESPN experts believe that Lowry’s one-year, $31MM extension actually makes him more appealing as a trade chip, since he wouldn’t be just a half-season rental. Lowe speculates that teams like the Heat, Pistons, and Clippers might have interest, while Woj singles out the Timberwolves as another potential fit.
  • According to Wojnarowski, both the Grizzlies and Andre Iguodala are willing to be patient when it comes to a potential trade or buyout. Woj likens Iguodala to MLB pitcher Roger Clemens, who often signed late in the season during the final few years of his career. “Iguodala’s fine with seeing what the landscape looks like and then jumping in on the season a little later,” Woj said. “Because you’re signing Andre Iguodala – or trading for him – for the postseason.” Woj added that the Lakers and Clippers would be the favorites to land the former Finals MVP if he’s bought out.
  • In a discussion on this year’s extension candidates (video link), Wojnarowski suggests that Raptors forward Pascal Siakam would be a lock for a maximum-salary offer sheet if he reaches restricted free agency next summer. Woj believes Kings sharpshooter Buddy Hield would get a similar offer and that Jaylen Brown (Celtics) and Domantas Sabonis (Pacers) would do very well too, given the lack of veteran stars expected to hit the free agent market.