BY DAVID THORPE
Pascal Siakam’s succession of maladies seemed almost made up. The saga began in the Disney bubble, where the second-seeded Raptors were upset by Jayson Tatum and the Celtics in the second round. Siakam shot poorly, and scored well below his average. They hoped to return full throttle for last season. But then COVID restrictions kept them from playing in Canada at all, so they endured an entire season 1,000 miles south, in Tampa, becoming a rare professional team to play every game on the road. Then he suffered a horrible COVID infection, including dramatic weight loss. Following that, he needed major shoulder surgery. Siakam had been one of the NBA’s most promising players in the league. By this past offseason, there was no guarantee he’d fully recover. It’s easy to fall out of the league’s elite.
The 2022 version of Siakam, though, is a scramble back to the mountaintop. Siakam has not only produced like an All-Star, he deserves consideration for a return to the All-NBA team.
Siakam’s return after shoulder surgery came a month into the schedule, November 7th. Quickly, it looked like he had recovered the offensive game that had slipped in the Disney playoffs. Would it last?
In almost every stat, his offense is elite. Dunksandthrees has Siakam as a 90th percentile offensive player—the highest of his career. The Raptors have maintained a better-than-average offense, eighth overall in January and tenth for the season, despite dealing with all sorts of COVID and injury issues while also playing a 20-year-old rookie. (Scottie Barnes is a spectacular talent, but he is still in year one following a weird year of college that saw him play fewer games, with far less practice time, than most NBA prospects get.) Fred VanVleet has been terrific as well and clearly could be on an All-Star team this season. But Siakam is the engine, the man who makes their offense flow. He’s far too skilled attacking and finishing at the rim for big men to check him on the perimeter, and he’s too big and long for smaller wings to guard. He’s almost always a matchup nightmare.
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