With only 10 games remaining in the regular schedule, the Toronto Raptors sit neatly wedged two games behind the Bucks and two games ahead of the Warriors for second place overall and head coach Nick Nurse is “not really putting a ton of emphasis on the results” of his remaining games. What he is emphasizing is the continued development of his emerging star Pascal Siakam.
The soon-to-be 25-year-old Siakam is high on everyone’s list as the Association’s most improved player this season and the surprise second leading scorer on the Raptors at 16.6 points per game is being pushed to do even more despite leading his team in minutes played by over 300 and virtually everyone else on the roster getting time off this season. But, there’s no rest coming for Spicy P as Nurse wants to keep expanding his game.
“Pascal, he’s as fresh as a daisy,” Nurse told Pro Bball Report in Toronto this week. “He’s a young guy and started (his) playing (career) late and has low miles on that motor he’s rolling with.
“We want to keep him in rhythm. I want to keep expanding his game. Get him in more situations to handle the ball, post-ups, start the offense, turn him loose a little bit and some play calling, ISO plays.
“That kid is continuing to grow and we need to see how much he can grow in another month.”
Siakam was getting noticed for his high motor two years ago as a rookie and that’s still a huge reason for his success, but he’s been showing off the P Skills version of his nickname all season and it’s been earning him a steadily increasing role.
Last year as a 20 minute per game backup, Siakam shot the three, but not very effectively at 22 percent and passed the ball, but without a huge impact at 2 assists per game. The potential was obvious, but it was mostly against backups. This year he took the starting power forward spot and he’s never giving it back.
With the blips expected of a developing three-point shooter, Siakam has been effective from beyond the arc at 35 percent, deadly from the corner shooting 40 percent and that alone would have been enough to garner him a lot of attention. Add in his progression in distributing the ball and decision making and it’s easy to understand why Nurse is pushing him to do more.
Thru 10 games in March Siakam is averaging 4.4 assists and Nurse is “turning him loose” to initiate offense and as seen in OKC, putting the ball in his hands with the game on the line. And Siakam has a long rope as he gets his chance to show what he can do. There was no push-back when Siakam ran into a charge with a second left in OKC on Wednesday night instead of dishing to an open Fred VanVleet in the corner. That was precisely the in-game experience Nurse wants Pascal to get in these remaining 10 regular season games because in the postseason teams are likely going to be trying to get the ball out of Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard’s hands in crunch time and Siakam could be the deciding play-maker.
The Raptors G-League Finals MVP of two years ago is upping his game faster than anyone anticipated. The only question may be, can he develop fast enough to become a star in this year’s playoffs?