Both the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics are lucky to have two of the most talented young players in the NBA in Pascal Siakam and Jayson Tatum.
Both made the All-Star Game for the first time this season and both are looking to lead their respective teams on a deep postseason run when the season restarts in the Orlando bubble.
But if you had a choice, which one would you rather have?
While you can't go wrong with either, NBA.com's Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay) and Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles) both took a side and stated their cases as to why it should be either Siakam or Tatum.
They've left the deciding outcome to the rest of the NBA.com Staff.
So without further ado, let's get to the proceedings.
Who would you rather have: Pascal Siakam or Jayson Tatum?
Gay's case for Siakam: If I'm building an NBA team, I'm looking for players who are adaptable. Players who can compete in any situation and any role, big or small.
I have that with Pascal Siakam.
Siakam fit in perfectly fine when he was coming off the bench for the Raptors in 2017-18. He fit in perfectly fine as the second option last season next to Kawhi Leonard en route to an NBA title and he's fit in great as the go-to option for the Raptors this season.
Siakam has been consistent in each role. Night in and night out, you know what you're getting with Pascal. This season, his averages of 23.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists on 35.9 percent shooting from 3-point range are that of a guy who's leading a team with the third-best record in the NBA. Again, we know what we're getting out of Siakam. Can we say the same for Tatum?
Tatum was pretty average last season by his standards and that's coming off of his spectacular performance in the playoffs his rookie year. He was supposed to take the leap, except he didn't. And before you go ahead and blame Kyrie Irving for that, consider this: Siakam had to play next to Kawhi, who, like Kyrie, is a ball-dominant scorer.
According to NBA Stats, Kawhi averaged more frontcourt touches (38.1) than Kyrie (31.1) did last season. Is that a product of the Raptors' ball movement? Maybe, but also consider this: Kawhi averaged more isolation possessions than Kyrie did a season ago and Kawhi, who by the way isn't a point guard, averaged slightly fewer seconds per touch at 4.24 than Kyrie's 4.27.
Tatum struggled to find himself alongside the notoriously ball-dominant Irving. Siakam found a way to elevate his game next to Leonard.
Tatum's peak in February was incredible. He was playing like a top-five player in the league, but am I supposed to ignore the 43 games before it where he was average by his standards once again? Am I supposed to forget the four games in March before the halt to the season where he came crashing back down to earth? I mean, after shooting 48.1 percent from three in February, the dude shot 66.7 percent from the free-throw line in March. Somewhere, Bruce Bowen is smiling.
I get consistency and adaptability with Siakam. You can keep the peaks and valleys with Tatum.
Rafferty's case for Tatum: This comes down to a few factors for me.
First and foremost, I'm more confident in Tatum's ability to go toe-to-toe with the league's biggest stars. That's not to say Siakam hasn't had big moments so far in his career - Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals being a perfect example of him stepping up to the plate - but Tatum has gotten into more individual battles with the likes of LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, even dating back his rookie season. As our Micah Adams broke down not long ago, that's something Siakam has struggled with this season. There's a chance he will get there eventually, but we haven't seen it yet. And until we do, it puts somewhat of a ceiling on him as a No. 1 option.
Secondly, I think Tatum has a higher ceiling as a scorer. Specifically, Tatum has proven to be a more versatile shooter. His midrange game is more developed than Siakam's and he's been one of the best pull-up shooters in the league this season, canning 39.9 percent of those opportunities from the perimeter. His comfort scoring at all three levels makes him a better isolation and pick-and-roll scorer. Tatum is also more than capable of playing off-ball. He has made 38.9 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s this season compared to 36.0 percent for Siakam. The combination makes him a superior scorer in the halfcourt, another area Siakam has struggled at times as a No. 1 option this season.
Finally, they're similar defenders. I don't feel strongly one way or the other over which one of Siakam and Tatum is better, but they're both capable of defending multiple positions and wreaking havoc defensively as help defenders with their long arms. They might never be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation, but I wouldn't be shocked if either of them make at least one All-Defensive Team in their careers.
Throw in the age factor - Tatum is four years younger than Siakam - and Tatum gets the slight edge for me if we're talking about who I'd rather build a team around. Sure, Tatum has had his ups and downs, but he's shown this year that he has the potential to be a bonafide superstar. I can't quite say the same for Siakam, as incredible as he's been.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): As compelling as both cases were, I have to go with Tatum.
While the valleys and peaks with Tatum could be a cause for concern, the fact that he is only 22 (!) leads me to believe that those wrinkles will be ironed out and it won't be long before those inconsistencies are a thing of the past. His age puts his accomplishments into an even greater perspective when thinking about the fact that he was going toe-to-toe with a LeBron-led Cavaliers team as a 20-year-old rookie.
I mean this in no disrespect to Pascal, but the above evidence is just too much to ignore. Ultimately, the question I asked myself with respect to this season was which player I'd be more comfortable with as the main contributor in a seven-game series. As it stands, I'd have supreme confidence in Tatum's ability to make things happen despite the adjustments of opposing teams and their defences. Because he's struggled in some important head-to-heads this season, I can't say I have that same level of confidence in Siakam.
Juan Estévez (@JuanEstevez90): Siakam gets my vote.
Tatum has a higher ceiling, there's no question about that. Not only is he younger but the best version of him is better than the best version of Siakam. I can see Tatum being the best player on a championship team. With Siakam, I think he's either the first option on a second-tier contender (like the Raptors this year) or the second option on a championship squad (like last year's Raptors).
Having said that, Siakam is the safest option on my mind. We talk about Tatum as though he's going to become a superstar, but are we completely sure about that? I'm not. On the other hand, Siakam has already proven how valuable he can be, even on a stage as bright as the Finals. There are no question marks on him. None.
One more thing in favor of Siakam. While they're eerily similar on offence right now - they have the exact same scoring average (23.6) and almost the exact same true shooting percentage (around 56%) - I have to give Siakam the edge on defence. He has a little more versatility, not only being an inch taller but also having a wingspan that is three inches longer. And while both play very hard on that end of the court, I think Siakam has a little more energy and intensity, especially when closing out on shooters.
So yes ... I'm going with Siakam and feel good about it.
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Tatum.
Every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
As my fellow jury member alluded to, Tatum is 22! So with regards to those peaks and valleys, how do we know they are even valleys at all? How do we know that Tatum's second-half explosion isn't simply the linear progression in the evolution of a superstar?
Siakam is a very good player. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if the expressed goal is to win an NBA title, then I don't need very good, I need special. Tatum's ceiling extends beyond special and unlike Siakam - whose best games have for the most part come against vastly inferior competition - he's proven on multiple occasions this year that he has the goods to go toe-to-toe with the LeBrons and Kawhis of the world.
Of the two here, Siakam is the solid and safe pick. But solid and safe isn't sexy and it certainly doesn't hang banners.
Final vote: 2 votes for Tatum, 1 vote for Siakam
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.