Judge: Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury, you have been gathered here today to consider the validity of one Pascal Siakam’s case to take part in this years NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Stephen A. Smith: *chokes on sip of coffee* Who? Now now, don’t get me wrong, Pascal Siakam is one smooth brother and I love this man to death but an ALL-STAR? Have you been hanging around Lamar Odom becau..”
Judge: Sir that’s enough! This not your damn radio show. You sit your ass down for the rest of these proceedings or I will have the bailiff escort you down to solitary with Kellerman.
Hold on – you’re probably wondering what this is, right? Well it’s exactly what the title says it is – a case. People talk about “making the case” for X,Y & Z all the time in sports. So let’s actually do it. We’re talking prosecutors, opening statements, cross examinations, the whole Law and Order thing.
The goal at the end of this is for you to have a definitive answer on whether Pascal Siakam deserves a spot on the 2018-2019 Eastern All-Star team. I’ll be playing the role of Pascal’s defense attorney, and you will be our trusty jury. Throughout the course of this trial you may notice some oddities and unconventional parties making appearances. We didn’t plan for this, but mediating behavior in an NBA courtroom is easier said than done.
Let’s get to it.
The Charges: Pascal Siakam, 24, Cameroon. – One count of not being worthy of an Eastern Conference All-Star roster spot.
Prosecution: I’m not really sure why we’re here today. I mean Pascal Siakam? An All-Star? Sorry man, but is the East really that bad that we’re having this conversation?
The All-Star game is supposed to be a source of pantheon-level entertainment for NBA fans. Do you think anyone outside of freezing cold Canada wants to come to Charlotte to watch this bum play. What does he bring to the table?
Masai Ujiri (Yelling from the back): Hey, F**k you!
Prosecution: What the hell was that?
Judge: I’m going to allow it.
Prosecution: Anyways, think about it. When’s the last time a player of this caliber was let into an All-Star game? Kyle Korver from the 2015 Hawks? When Josh Howard got called up to replace an injured Yao Ming? Brad Miller in 2013? This really is a stretch here people. You want to watch high flying jams, bounce pass alley-oops and no look dimes! What’s this kid gonna do? A bunch of spin moves?
Let’s examine the list of players who are a lock for the Eastern All-Star team:
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Kawhi Leonard
- Joel Embiid
- Kyrie Irving
- Kemba Walker
- Ben Simmons
- Victor Oladipo
- Nikola Vucevic
- Bradley Beal
- Blake Griffin
There’s no arguing with that list. By my count, Leonard, Embiid, Giannis, Vuc & Griffin make 5 frontcourt players on the roster. Which means there’s only one spot left for a forward. Jayson Tatum, Kris Middelton, Jimmy Butler, Al Horford – those are names you want to go pay to see.
Just last week we were talking about Siakam as a maybe for Most Improved Player of the year, and now you want to send him to the All-Star Game? Too soon ladies and gentlemen. You all know better.
Tutssel: Thanks for that. I think you just did part of my job for me. Those of you who have watched the Raptors this year will understand the impact that Pascal Siakam has had on his team’s success. For those who haven’t, let’s recap his statistical contributions: 15ppg, 7 boards, 1 steal and a three per game on 57% shooting from the field. And that’s just what the numbers show.
The folks voting for these all-star reserve spots are NBA Coaching staffs. They’re looking at more than just numbers. The eye test matters. When you watch Siakam play you notice all the little things he does that don’t show up in a box score. He’s an incredibly active defender who sticks to his man tighter than Charles Barkely’s shirt clings his midsection after a round of golf in July.
His transition defense is impeccable. You can switch him onto any player in the league and have confidence he’s going to make it difficult for them.
On offense Siakam’s length allows him to be a weapon in fast break situations with his Greek freak-esque strides to the hoop, activity on the offensive glass and a spin move that’s tighter and covers more ground than anyone else in the league.
His win shares back up what he’s putting down on the court, clocking in at just over 5 this year. I’m actually glad the prosecution brought up my client’s competition for this All-Star spot. It’s about the only thing we agree on. There’s really only 2 All-Star spots available. One of those will likely go to a guard, so we’ve got about 4 wings competing for one spot.
Let’s see how these guys matchup:
Stats among this group are pretty even. The figures that really distance Siakam from the herd are the efficiency numbers. 57% shooting from the field, highest win share rate, best team record and doing it all with the lowest usage of the bunch. Pascal Siakam is doing the absolute most with the least basketballs in his hands of any All-Star candidate in recent memory. He should be rewarded for that.
Tutssel: I’d like to call Jimmy Butler to the stand.
Butler: Man this is bulls**t. How am I not on that lock list of yours? You know I made KAT cry at practice once right?
Tutssel: Is being actively disliked by your teammates something that you’ve always strived for, or does it more just occur naturally for you?
Butler: Man I just want to win. And if you ain’t prepared to do everything it takes to get that done then imma get all up in your Fortnite-playing-ass face. I’m a great player and I deserve to be an All-Star over this Siakam kid.
Tutssel: Mr. Butler are you aware that the Timberwolves have been better in almost every measurable way possible since they traded you? And that the most effective Sixers lineup is one that involves you sitting on the bench?
Butler: Well umm..
Tutssel: No seriously, take a look.
Butler: (blank stare)
Tutssel: Jimmy have you ever known any of Pascal’s teammates to speak ill of him?
Butler: (Sighs) Not really actually. I always see him and his teammates laughing, high fiving each other and having a good time. We hung out once this summer and he was hilarious. How can you be likable, have fun and win basketball games? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
Tutssel: Everyone defaults to “Jimmy Buckets” in their search for a candidate to fill this open roster spot. But take a closer look at what’s going on here. There’s a fundamental problem with rewarding a guy who creates a poisonous locker room environment everywhere he goes, is the third best player on his own team and has demonstrated an incredible lack of leadership qualities in 3 different cities.
Prosecution: Uhhhh. The prosecution rests.
The transcript of the prosecution’s closing statement was unable to be recovered. The courtroom stenographer dozed off during his opening remarks. His monologue was actually cut short when JV started launching spitballs from the back of the courthouse. This commotion woke the stenographer up and she was able to continue from that point on. Between you and me, not a lot of valid points were made, and that lady really did you a favor by taking a nap.
Tutssel: By now, a couple things should be clear. The first being that my client is a statistically viable candidate for the All-Star team. He’s played himself into the conversation. If we covered the names of Tatum, Butler, Middelton and Siakam, you’d have a tough time identifying one player over the next.
The second is that of these candidates, Siakam is touch-for-touch the most efficient player left in the race. Shooting the highest percentages with the fewest amount of touches; He’s putting up offensive numbers that mirror Butler, Middleton and Tatum, scoring the ball at the same efficiency as Giannis, while boasting a lower usage rate than Kelly Olynk.
The one thing we haven’t talked about yet? His team’s record. The Raptors have an NBA-best 36 wins, sitting at 36-13 on the season. Since Lowry has been hobbled by injuries, Kawhi is really the only Raptor guaranteed to make it to Charlotte. Do you want to live in a world where the NBA’s best team has one All-Star?
The precedent set for this is uncanny. The Warriors have had 3-4 All-Stars every year of their reign of terror. Lebron’s Cavs had 3 All-Stars every season they were together. You sent four Hawks to the All-Star Game in 2012. Every year of the Heatles, Lebron Wade and Bosh were locks.
The other players being considered for this spot? Their team’s record really hurts their case:
- The Sixers are 31-18 with two guys playing decisively better than Jimmy Butler.
- The Celtics, despite having supreme talent on paper, have been a train wreck so far this season. Tatum hasn’t taken the jump to an All-Star level as most thought he would, Horford is contributing the least amount of win shares to his team since 2011, and Gordon Hayward looks like he’s worth about 20% of his contract since coming back from injury.
The Raptors aren’t exempt from criticism either. They’ve been all over the place this season. Kawhi and Lowry have been out of the lineup for a combined 25 games, with neither missing the same one. JV’s been injured, Fred Vanvleet struggled to find his shot in their first 20 games, Wright has been disappointing and Powell just last week remembered how to basketball. The only two common denominators for Toronto this season have been winning, and Pascal Siakam.
The real crime here would be not rewarding the player who’s been tearing up the league in his marginalized offensive role, getting his hands in every passing lane from Toronto to LA, and spinning his way through defenses like a human Beyblade.
Ladies and gentleman, I implore you to not make the easy or sexy pick when it comes to selecting this final All-Star spot. Make the choice that values good basketball players on great basketball teams. And hey, I want to see highlight reel plays as much as the rest of you in Charlotte. If you really need a reminder of the flair that Pascal can bring to this marquee tradition – just watch that spin move.
It’s too swift for bigs, too lanky for guards, and too spicy for all of us.
Follow Nick at @nicktutssel