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NBA Toronto Raptors Bismack Biyombo and DeMar DeRozan

Biyombo Who? Raptors Rookies Wipe Out Any Rebounding Concerns

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.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini






NBA Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam

Raptors Pascal Siakam Goes From Third String To Starter

This wasn’t how things were supposed to go, but once again in Toronto it’s ‘next man up’ as big man Jared Sullinger breaks his foot in his first preseason game with the Raptors and the rookie Pascal Siakam finds himself in the starting line-up for the last four preseason games and likely on opening night.

The Raptors signed the Celtics starter Sullinger as a free agent this summer when Boston quite literally ran out of options after signing free agent Al Horford and being stuck with too many draft picks and too many young players already on the roster. Their loss was Toronto’s gain as the Raptors needed an upgrade at starting power forward and someone that could effectively soak up some of those backup center minutes Bismack Biyombo covered off last season.

Into the void created by Sullinger’s absence stepped Siakam and through 7 preseason games he averaged 7.4 points on 52.3 percent shooting, 4.1 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1 block in 20.7 minutes. Head coach Dwane Casey putting the rookie into the starting unit for the last 4 games where he upped his scoring to 9 points on 63 percent shooting in 21.9 minutes.

It wasn’t all good for Siakam in preseason and given a choice, Casey wants Sullinger back in the starting unit asap. There were some rough moments at the start of games with Siakam as the Raptors were a -3.8 points with the rookie on the court in the first quarter, but the opportunity for Siakam to get better fast probably makes it worthwhile.

“It’s a great opportunity for other players, for Pascal Siakam if we decide to start him,” Casey told Dean Bundell on SN590 The Fan. “Pascal’s athleticism at the four position will be important for us because it allows us to do some switching defensively and he can guard different positions. He gives us some flexibility and versatility.

“The roles that we really put those (young) guys in are support roles where they don’t have to think a lot, do a lot, but just make sure they stay in their lane and do their role.”

Casey is going to need his young players to figure out how to stay in their lane fast as Sullinger’s role was going to be pretty big and he isn’t going to be available for quite a while.

A sore foot that wouldn’t get better eventually led to addition tests that uncovered a cracked bone in Sullinger’s left foot that the doctors decided needed a screw to support it. Some say the big man will be out for eight weeks, the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society suggests this type of injury takes three to four months.

Forward Patrick Patterson was expected to take on a bigger role this season as was center Jonas Valanciunas, but Sullinger was to be the third leg in this big man rotation, so there are minutes at backup center that will now need to be covered off. Of course third year center Lucas Nogueira turned an ankle less than a week before opening night, so Casey will likely be turning to yet another rookie to start the season.

“Jacob Poeltl will be able to have a role because Jared was going to play some backup five,” Casey said. ” Lucas Nogueira and Jacob will get opportunities to play backup minutes behind (starter Jonas Valanciunas).

“It’s an opportunity for other players to step in and do the job.”

Casey has the option to insert Patterson into the starting lineup on opening night and last year that was everything the young veteran forward wanted, but this year, not so much. He backed way off those comments on media day.

Casey has made several attempts to use the big forward as a starter over the last couple of seasons. It looks like a sure thing, but once he’s in there, it doesn’t take long to realize it’s a lot better to bring Patterson off the bench for 30+ minutes than to try and change what has worked so well for him in Toronto. A starter level talent who just plays better as a reserve. Siakam should thank his lucky stars (maybe), what an opportunity!



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.






NBA Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam

Sullinger And Siakam Impress In Raptors Win Over Warriors

In front of a sellout crowd at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena the Toronto Raptors came away with a closely fought, poorly shot, and somewhat sloppily played preseason opening win over the visiting Golden State Warriors on Saturday night 97-93. The Raptors free agent addition Jared Sullinger with 7 points, a game high 10 boards, a steal and a block in a game high 23.3 minutes of action and rookie Pascal Siakam with 9 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal in 20.8 minutes particularly impressed in their Raptors debuts.

This somewhat meaningless contest will be mostly remembered as Kevin Durant’s first appearance in a Warriors game and the superstar scored 9 points on 2-9 shooting from the field, but from a Raptors perspective, Durant will be remembered as the first NBA player Siakam blocked at the rim on a layup attempt. Siakam is a high energy power forward/center that Raptors head coach Dwane Casey keeps finding reasons to mention and the rookie hid his first game jitters with effort.

“I was nervous, I’m not going to lie,” Siakam said after the game. “I didn’t expect that at all in my first possession I was going to have to guard (Kevin Durant). This is the guy you watch on TV, you look up to and you get to play your first game, your first minutes against him. I was nervous, but at the same time, you’re here. I was happy.”

Sullinger looked really good as the starting power forward and when moving over to backup center after Casey rolled out his first set of substitutions. If his rebounding prowess continues thru the rest of preseason, it’ll be Biyombo-who real fast this year. However, Siakam is going to be the hot topic because he’s a rookie. Everyone knew, or should have known, Sullinger can rebound the ball at a high level.

“Pascal is going to be the type of guy that can guard multiple positions,” Sullinger said. “His energy level, his intensity and his ability to change shots at the rim, Pascal is going to be a difference maker.”

Throw out the score, the bad shooting, the sloppy play. The takeaway from this game was the Raptors out rebounded the Warriors 58-42. Toronto is going to be a good rebounding team again this season.

It was obvious from the start this was a preseason game as the two teams combined for a dozen first quarter turnovers on their way to 44 for the game. Both teams opened with their anticipated starting lineups for the upcoming regular season and not a single starter on either team had a positive plus/minus. There’s a lot of rust to be knocked off before the season starts at the end of the month.

The Raptors organization breathed a collective sigh of relief to see DeMarre Carroll look like the Carroll of two seasons ago as their starting small forward shot 6-9 for a team high 14 points to go with 4 rebounds and 4 steals. This was how it was supposed to go. Carroll completed his rehab from last season’s surgery in August and was reporting no ill effects from workouts or practice, but watching him move this smoothly and effectively in a game situation had to make his coaches feel good.

The Warriors took a look at 18 players in this contest and the Raptors played 15 guys. While the vets shake off the rust in limited minutes, the coaches are looking at who might crack the rotation or win one of the last spots on the roster and there’s a long ways to go on both fronts. At least the fans in Vancouver seemed to enjoy themselves.

“That’s what exhibition is for,” Casey said. “It’s to see guys like Drew Crawford and Norm Powell and those guys, Pascal and see what they can do. Fred VanVleet he came in and did a good job. All the young guys were impressive.”

The Raptors next preseason game is at the ScotiaBank Saddledome in Calgary on Monday against the Denver Nuggets.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





NBA Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam

Pascal Siakam Impresses Raptors Media In Toronto

It was an apparently calm, confident and mature Pascal Siakam who finally made it to Toronto to meet the local media after resolving some visa issues. The Raptors surprise first round draft pick fits the mold of what president and general manager Masai Ujiri wants and Siakam is the kind of young high energy big man that could make everyone in Toronto stop missing Bismack Biyombo.

Bismack Biyombo locker clean out day 2016

Bismack Biyombo locker clean out day 2016

NBA Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam

Pascal Siakam meets the Toronto media 2016







Pascal Siakam wasn’t on anyone’s radar for the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft, anyone that is except Ujiri who thought the 22-year-old big man from Cameroon was good enough to take with the 27th overall pick. Defense, rebounding and a non-stop motor go a long ways in Toronto these days.

“I think from the start it’s my motor,” Siakam responded to Pro Bball Report at the media availability. “That’s something you can’t change and I feel like I have that off the bat. The fact that I can come in and bring energy to the team no matter what my skill level, if I have that, that’s an NBA ready skill. Also rebounding the basketball. I will be a relentless rebounder and I will go for every rebound, that’s a skill. Being able to defend multiple positions, that’s a skill especially with the way the league is going. I feel that that is really going to be big time for me the fact that I can switch on guards and be able to keep them in front of me, that’s a skill. (Those are) things right off the bat that are NBA ready. You can go through a lot of development during your career. The offense and everything is going to come along, but those skills alone can help me out right now.”

Look out 9th pick Jacob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira and Jared Sullinger, this kid is gunning for your minutes by out working you on defense.

Of course Siakam also has a bit of an offensive game that he gave everyone a taste of in half a game at NBA Summer League. This kid can run the fast break like a world class sprinter and has has the hands and the touch to finish at the rim. He finished on 73.3 percent of his shots at the rim as a senior in college. Not known for having a jump shot, he wasn’t terrible at the mid range game either, finishing 43.8 percent of his two-point shots away from the rim. This kid can score and the native of Cameroon averaged 20.2 points last year.

“I think there is a lot more (to my offensive game),” Siakam said. “I did show a little glimpse of what I could do (at Summer League) on the basketball court. I feel like my shot is really good. It is going to take a lot of repetition because of the way I played before I didn’t really have to shoot a lot of jumpers, but I have a good shot. My form is good. I can attack the basket and finish at the rim. There is a lot more to see from me.”

It’s hard to imagine Biyombo ever having the offensive potential of Siakam.

Just to put things in perspective, Biyombo and Siakam were both measured at 6’9.5 in shoes. Biyombo beating Siakam’s broad 7’3 wingspan by 3″ and Siakam looking to have the superior hops with a maximum 36″ vertical. Biyombo skipped that measurement and despite being quick off the floor defensively, he takes forever to get above the rim on offense. Biyombo is 18 months older and about 15 lbs heavier than Siakam and it will be interesting to see how Siakam adjusts to playing stronger players at the NBA level.

However, Siakam has the potential to become that hard-hat fan favorite Torontoians love to see play.

“The first thing (people) have to know is I’m a good person,” Siakam said. “I was raised well by amazing parents. Concerning basketball, (I am) a guy that is going to come in and give everything he has for the city, for his organization, for his teammates, for his fans. (I am) a guy who is ready to go to work.”

It was hard work and defensive energy that got last year’s second round draft pick Norman Powell minutes in head coach Dwane Casey’s rotation last season. Siakam could be the surprise player on the Raptors for the same reasons this coming year.

Siakam finished the media availability by unexpectedly shaking the hand of every person in the room. Now that’s how you impress the media in your new city.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





NBA Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam

Raptors Draft Pick Pascal Siakam Does Have A Jump Shot

Pascal Siakam wasn’t on anyone’s radar for the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft, anyone except Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri who thought the 22-year-old big man from Cameroon was good enough to take with the 27th overall pick. Defense and rebounding go a long ways in Toronto these days, but despite numerous mock draft comments to the contrary, Siakam is more than just a rim protector and garbageman in the paint, he does have a jump shot as well.

Siakam spoke with CNNE.com’s A. Sherrod Blakely in June about his jump shot,

“I have pretty good form when you look at my shot,” he said. “The role that I had in college, I didn’t have to shoot a lot of jumpers. From my freshman year to my sophomore year I improved a lot on my shot. And I know it’s going to keep on improving. The form is there. It’s just about getting reps and consistency.”

As a freshman at New Mexico State, Siakam took 59.3 percent of his shots at the rim and connected on 69.8 percent of them. Hoop-Math.com reports he hit 39.7 percent of his jump shots in 2014-15, but didn’t make a three-pointer. However, he wasn’t incompetent from 15 feet out, hitting on over 75 percent of his free throws.

Siakam extended his range and took more shots away from the rim as a sophomore as he led the WAC in field goals, field goal attempts and points scored. He only took 36.7 percent of his shots at the rim, connecting on 73.3 percent. 60.4 percent of his shots were two-point jumpers on which he shot a respectable 43.8 percent. He also attempted 15 three-pointers and made 3.

Bleacher Report’s C.J. Moore reported on the changes to Siakam’s game in March,

“The main thing that impressed me on him was the fact that he made the big leap in improvement hitting the 12- to 15-foot jumper,” a scout told B/R. “Last year, he was a guy that didn’t shoot that shot and now he’s a guy who has a very good-looking jump shot.”

“He’s definitely an NBA-caliber player,” Baylor coach Scott Drew told Bleacher Report. “The thing that sticks out to me is how much he’s improved in the last year. The first time we played him [in 2014-15], he spent most of his time in the paint.

“But this season he moved away from the basket. He was putting the ball on the floor, taking longer jumpers—but still mixing it up down low, too. He’s got a more versatile skill set now, which makes him dangerous because it means he can play multiple positions.”

Ujiri just might have picked up on something other GM’s had overlooked as Draft Express was reporting his jump shot still leaves a lot to be desired.

He’s not much of a jump shooter yet… his mechanics are inconsistent and need to be tweaked before he turns into a threat as a shooter.

Selling Raptors head coach Dwane Casey on Siakam would have been relatively easy. He led the WAC in blocks (2.2) and rebounds (11.6) and his defensive rating was a conference best 86.7. For a player with a motor that doesn’t stop, Siakam was doing it all in college on both ends of the court. He’s looking to surprise everyone with that jump shot few people think he has.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam

Raptors Draft Double-Double Machine Pascal Siakam 27th Overall

By Frank McLean

With all the hype of the Raptors having the ninth pick overall as a result of a deal with New York that saw GM Masai Ujiri dump Andrea Bargnani on the Knicks, it’s easy to forget still they had a first round draft pick of their own this year.

At 27th overall, Toronto took sophomore forward Pascal Siakam from New Mexico State University.

Siakam is a double-double machine and this past season he led all Division One schools with 27 and ranked in the top ten in rebounds. The native of Cameroon averaged 20.2 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks last season. He also received Honorable Mention All-American from Associated Press and was the Western Athletic Conference Player of the year.

His scouting report says he is very long, athletic and quick off the floor. He is a great rebounder and shot blocker with a range of 15-feet. Draft Express describes him as,

A 6’10” power forward with an imposing 7’3” wingspan, Siakam has several physical tools that give him a solid foundation as a draft prospect. In addition to his measurables, he has a motor that rarely stops along with great speed and agility to boot that allows him to move around the court with ease.

Siakim had a bit of a Canadian connection at New Mexico State. His coach Paul Wier was a point guard at York University in Toronto and was also head basketball coach at Don Bosco High School in Toronto.

The Raptors worked out Siakam in Buffalo, New York the same day they worked out Poeltl. Just like Poeltl, his visa could let enter Canada with no problems, but he would not be able to get back into the United States.

Siakam and Poeltl both have two years NCAA experience which gives them a chance to get minutes with the Raptors, but don’t be surprised if they end up with the Raptors 905 in Mississauga. However, as we saw with Norman Powell this past season, if you show you can play, Dwane Casey will give you a shot with the big club.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.