One of the most exciting young players currently in the NBA is 24-year-old Pascal Siakam, who has been a revelation for the Toronto Raptors.
The 6-foot-9, Cameroon-born basketball player is averaging 15.6 points per game. However, he has been on a hot streak recently, putting up even better numbers. For example, he dropped a career-high 44 points (with 20 coming in the second half) against the Washington Wizards this week. It was the fourth time he has scored at least 28 points in a game since January 1.
He started just five games for the Raptors last season. But this year, he is an early favorite for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. He was a fringe All-Star candidate who even took home the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week award in November 2018.
Before the season began, he was receiving comparisons to Golden State’s Draymond Green due to his ability to perform at a high level in transition.
Back in October 2018, the forward told Sportsnet’s Michael Grange that he can “blow by a lot of people” that guard him. The confidence he showed in his own explosiveness has proven to be correct — as Siakam has had very little trouble dominating in a fast tempo offense.
Now, with Siakam’s help, Toronto has the third-best transition offense in the NBA. They also average 17.3 points per game on fast breaks, which leads all Eastern Conference teams.
Siakam has scored 281 points in transition so far this season. That ranks No. 7 overall among all players in the NBA, per Synergy Sports. Among those in the East, he trails just Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bradley Beal.
The forward showed his effectiveness in transition last season too, averaging 1.27 PPP. This ranked Top 15 (minimum: 100 possessions) when examining other high-volume contributors.
But he finished just 1.8 possessions per game on this play type. This year, that has more than doubled. Siakam is currently finishing 3.8 possessions per game in transition. The coaching staff has entrusted him to run the court with the ball more often.
Here is what he told Tim Bontemps last month when asked about his role as a scorer on the fastbreak (via ESPN):
“They’ve done a great job of letting me be me, and playing my game and being the type of player I am and using all of my strengths and giving me a position out there on the floor to do what I do best. It’s a credit to them and that obviously helps the confidence, not looking over your shoulder knowing that when you’re out there, you’re out there, and you have to make plays and they trust you.”
His blend of speed, athleticism and dribbling ability allows him to roll by his defenders and score without help from his teammates.
For proof of his speed: there are 83 players taller than 6-foot-7 who have appeared on the court for at least 1,250 minutes this season. Only five have averaged a faster speed when on offense than Siakam (4.79 miles per hour) thus far. And that number was even higher (5.03 MPH) during his 2017-18 campaign.
However, perhaps most impressive is his ability to pull down a rebound, take the ball the length of the court and then create his own basket.
Only 43 percent of his field goals have come from assists. According to Cleaning the Glass, that ranks in the 89th percentile among all bigs in the league.
Siakam is able to shine on fastbreaks, throws down some absolutely gorgeous dunks that can demoralize an opponent.