With how important next season is going to be for Pascal Siakam, we've already looked at two parts of his game that would help him tap further into his All-Star potential if he turns them into strengths.
In the third edition of our Summer Workout Plan for the Toronto Raptors' budding star, we're going to focus on an area of his game that he's already comfortable in - the post.
MORE: How Siakam can improve as a shooter | How Siakam can improve as a passer
The 25-year-old forward took a massive leap in his third season in the league, resulting in the 2019 Most Improved Player of the Year award. He upped his scoring average of 7.3 points per game in 2017-18 to 16.9 points per game this past season and had a number of impressive games in the Raptors' playoff run, showing flashes of a player that could become the focal point of a franchise.
With star forward and Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard leaving for the LA Clippers in free agency, Siakam will get that opportunity sooner than he may have expected. In need of filling the 26.6 points per game void that Leonard left behind, Toronto will need Siakam to up his scoring average again - likely somewhere around 20 to 22 points per game - if they're going to remain competitive.
"I saw Fred [VanVleet] and Pascal the day after [Kawhi left]," Raptors head coach Nick Nurse told ESPN's Jackie MacMullan. "I told them, 'There are 20-plus shots up for grabs.' They both grabbed their right shoulders and said, 'We're ready.'"
One thing that stood out from Siakam's breakout season was his efficiency - he shot 54.9% from the field on 11.8 attempts per game. Siakam was tremendous at using his length to finish tough shots in and around the paint. He fell in love with his spin move in the post and off the dribble, and it took opposing teams a while to pick up on it.
Even when they did pick up on it, it didn't stop Siakam from using the move to get to his spots and finish around the rim. According to NBA.com's tracking data, 69.8% of his shots last season came from within 10-feet - he shot 62.5% from that range. He shot 50.5% on field goal attempts classified as "hook shots" and was even more efficient in the postseason, making 54.9% of them.
Siakam is still working on his strength at this stage of his young career, which often led to his post-ups starting a bit further away from the basket than he probably would like. But the hook shot was a go-to for Siakam, using his 7-foot-3 wingspan to his advantage to get good looks over the top of defenders.
After watching a number of post-ups between the regular season and postseason, there were times where Siakam could have made life easier for himself. He often had an opportunity to spin away from traffic to create a better look but a lack of comfort and experience prevented him from doing so.
Take a look at these two possessions from the playoffs, where Siakam could have had a cleaner look at the rim with his left but instead elected to turn into the defence and attempt to get to his right:
In both instances, his strength - which will come with time - prevented him from getting the post position he probably would have liked. He had a chance to spin toward the baseline and use his left for an easier finish but turned into the D instead. In one instance it allowed the help defender, Giannis Antetokounmpo, to come up with a block.
These next two examples go hand-in-hand as well, as Siakam spins to get to his left but chooses to go back to his right, making things simple for the defender:
If he could get comfortable with a little left-handed hook shot in those two instances, it would open up scoring opportunities for himself and keep the defence guessing.
Here is one last situation. Although it is not a post-up or a left hook opportunity, it still shows Siakam has room to grow as a scorer when he does become more versatile with that left:
Siakam drove to the lane and Draymond Green defended him well, positioning himself to stop Pascal from going right. There's a moment where Siakam could have used his spin move but it would have forced him to finish with his left, and he froze up. The result - a contested right-handed floater that was off the mark.
Siakam showcased so much talent and potential last season that he should have no issue working on minor gaps in his game such as the aforementioned. The Raptors are going to need him to take another step in every aspect of his game if he is going to be the team's star player, but don't be shocked if Siakam lives up to those expectations after what we saw this past season.
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