Pascal Siakam's rise to stardom has been one of the major storylines throughout the Raptors season and a driving force during the team's historic postseason run - Toronto wouldn't have come close to the Finals without him.
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From averaging 4.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in 15.6 minutes per game as a rookie to averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game once a new head coach appointed him as a full-time starter in Year 3, Siakam has emerged as the favourite to earn the league's Most Improved Player honour and is on track to become an All-Star next season.
A seemingly-sudden rise of this magnitude is far from common, but it isn't unprecedented.
For a similar case, look no further than the Draymond Green, who went from averaging 2.9 points and 3.3 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per game as a rookie to averaging 11.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game once a new head coach appointed him as a full-time starter in Year 3.
Once given more opportunity, Green became a key piece for a Golden State Warriors team that won the 2015 NBA title and he would go on to make his first of three consecutive All-Star appearances in the following season.
The two paths are similar enough that ahead of their Finals meeting with the Raptors, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told reporters that, "Siakam looks like a young Draymond to me." Kerr would know, as he made Green a starter in his first year as head coach, paving the way for his breakout season.
As for Pascal, he hears the comparisons, but he's made it clear that he prefers to stay in his own lane, as he told reporters:
I mean, obviously, just being in that conversation is definitely flattering, but like I always said -- and for me, I think I've always tried to be myself and be the player that I want to be. I don't want to be the next Draymond Green. I want to be Pascal.
He's not wrong, either.
Siakam is well on his way to becoming a much different type of player than Green, and their numbers support contrasting approaches to the game. Offensively, Siakam is already a much more willing scorer, averaging 16.9 points per game this past season while Green's career-best average is 14.0 points per game in the 2015-16 season. To take it a step further, Green has surpassed the 30-point mark just three times in his career (regular season and playoffs), while Siakam has done it six times this year alone.
On the other hand, Green's ability as a playmaker is far superior to most forwards in the league that aren't named LeBron James.
It's clear that Green's instincts are to pass first and as a result, he is a triple-double threat on a nightly basis; this year, the Warriors have posted a combined regular season and postseason record of 26-4 when Green records eight or more assists. While Siakam is very capable of making plays in transition and in some halfcourt situations, Toronto is at its best when he relieves pressure as a scoring threat.
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Perhaps the biggest similarity between the two is their impact on the defensive end.
Siakam is on the verge of becoming an all-league defender as he has the lateral quickness and agility to make plays on the defensive end, but he has a ways to go to reach Green, who recently earned All-Defensive honours for the fifth consecutive season. At his peak, Green is the best defender in the league as evidenced by his earning Defensive Player of the Year for his work in the 2016-17 season.
History often repeats itself and after an improved Green helped propel the Warriors to a title in his third year, could Siakam be that same driving force for the Raptors in his third season?
Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals tips off on Friday, May 31 at 6:30 a.m. on Ten 1 & Ten 3.
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