The Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri magic touch has been showing itself off early on again this season as rookies Pascal Siakam and Jacob Poeltl are quickly making everyone forget all about the departure of their best rebounder last season Bismack Biyombo.
With injuries to Jared Sullinger and Lucas Nogueira, the rookies were thrust into the rotation ahead of schedule and at this point, it would be hard to conclude anything but they deserve to be there.
Casey was forced to start Siakam in order to keep the veteran Patrick Patterson in his comfort zone coming off the bench and the energetic forward has filled in nicely averaging 4 points on 66.7 percent shooting, 6 rebounds and a steal in 18.5 minutes over his first two games. It’s starting to look like Ujiri isn’t going to be forced into any rush to bring back Sullinger or something else more desperate. When Nogueira went down, Poeltl was the next man up at backup center and he’s averaged 4.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 12 minutes and is starting to look like he just belongs out there. Nogueira has been the odd man out in each of his two previous seasons and if he doesn’t get back soon, he’ll be the odd man out again this year.
“We (Siakam and Poeltl) got our roles and we know our roles and what we are supposed to do,” Siakam told Pro Bball Report. “I think the team knows what I can give them and that’s what I am going to try to give every night.
“I think that I am a pretty good rebounder. Whenever I get an opportunity I will try to go for the ball and with me playing, I will have more opportunity to rebound the basketball, that is always one of my assets.”
Biyombo was a big time contributor off the bench last season averaging 5.5 points, 8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 22 minutes as he pulled in an impressive 20.8 percent of the available boards while he was on the court. However, the rookie Poeltl is absorbing 19.8 percent of the available rebounds so far and his first two games were against solid playoff teams and Siakam has been dramatically upping the rebounding impact from the power forward spot at 17.1 percent. It’s a small sample size, but Toronto doesn’t look like a team that is going to lose the battle of the boards very often because they are relying on a couple of rookies.
“(Siakam) is a good rebounder and he played well,” a frustrated Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy said after the season opener.
So far this season Toronto has outrebounded their opposition by an NBA 4th best 11 boards each game and that included the home opening win over Detroit and last season’s top rebounder Andre Drummond. It’s worth pointing out the Raptors two rookies are averaging 10.5 boards between them. Last year Toronto finished the season a solid 7th best +2.6 boards.
The next big test for the Raptors rebounding prowess is going to come on Halloween night when they face off against the glass cleaning Nuggets at the Air Canada Center. Denver has been crushing opponents on the boards by a +20.5 rebound margin to start the season. Big men Nikola Jokic (12 rebounds), Kenneth Faried (11.5 rebounds) and Jusif Nurkic (9 rebounds) doing most of the heavy lifting. Toronto’s rookies are in for another real challenge.
Now if only someone could block a shot for the Raptors? Although, the blocked shot differential is currently zero.