Monday, May 23, 2022

Pascal Siakam struggled with place within Raptors hierarchy: ‘I never really felt like I was the guy’

Pascal Siakam helped the Toronto Raptors win their first championship in 2019, and in 2020, he took another step forward by earning All-NBA Second Team honors. At that point, Siakam appeared to have cemented himself as a franchise player for Toronto, but the 2021 season didn’t go quite as planned. The Raptors missed the playoffs and his scoring, rebounding and shooting numbers all declined. 

In an interview with Sopan Deb of The New York Times, Siakam spoke about the frustration of last season. In short, he wasn’t sure of his place within the Raptors organization. 

“For me at that point when I started becoming that person, I just felt like there wasn’t that much level of communication, to be honest,” he said. “And that was the only thing really that I felt. It was like, ‘We got you the max contract, but are you the guy?’ I think that’s something that I was struggling with.”

Siakam continued, “Obviously, Kyle [Lowry] was there, being a point guard. Kyle was, to me, always the greatest Raptor of all time. I think he was always like, ‘I was the guy.’ I had the contract, but I never really felt like I was the guy, to be honest.”

In some ways, Siakam’s problems have sorted themselves out. Lowry left the Raptors for the Miami Heat this offseason. His shadow no longer looms over the incumbent young players. But with his absence have come new issues. The Raptors drafted Scottie Barnes No. 4 overall, creating a logjam at the forward position for Toronto. Siakam has been involved in trade rumors this offseason, though little has suggested that Toronto has come close to making a deal. 

Ultimately, Siakam’s fate is going to come down to his own performance. If he wants to be the face of the franchise in Toronto, he’ll have to play more like his 2020 self. Siakam shot over 36 percent from behind the arc in 2019 and 2020, but last season, as shooting numbers exploded league wide, he fell below 30 percent. Opposing defenses seemed to have solved his spin move, which will force him to diversify his skill set as a driver. 

The Raptors returning to Toronto after playing in Tampa should help, but this is a new era in franchise history. The Raptors are trying to figure out what their next contending team will look like, and if Siakam wants to lead that team he’s going to have to prove that he deserves to. 

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