Arenas enlightens us | Siakam has bright future but needs to work hard at it | Lin heading to China
Reason for promise
The most fundamental skill for any go-to player is the ability to create an efficient shot, and Siakam has that down pat.
Siakam scored 0.97 points per isolation last season, which ties him with Blake Griffin and LeBron James in terms of efficiency. He didn’t do it often — Siakam totalled 121 isolations over 80 games — but that’s likely because most of his 1-on-1 opportunities are better categorized as post-ups. On that front, Siakam scored 1.08 points per possession across 148 post-ups, which ranked third among the most efficient post-up scorers last season.
Siakam is a walking mismatch in the post. He’s quick enough to drive past most bigs, and his 7-foot-4 wingspan allows him to shoot over top most wings. Siakam can finish with either hand, he creates separation through an assortment of creative and balletic post moves, and his soft touch around the rim allows him to connect on bankers and floaters from odd and unpredictable angles. Next to Leonard, Siakam attacking the basket was the Raptors’ best source of offense.
As his confidence grew, Siakam quietly began to test the limits of his game, which included more ball-handling responsibilities. Siakam finished 65 possessions out of pick-and-roll — a small but not insignificant number — and scored at a rate of 1.12 points per possession, which ranked ahead of even Leonard. Maintaining those results to a larger sample will be a monumental challenge, but the Raptors will be willing to live with the growing pains.
Even without adding the pick-and-roll element to his game, Siakam is still an easy bet to top the 20-point plateau. Siakam scored 17 per game last season off an assortment of transition baskets, catch-and-shoot threes, and the occasional 1-on-1 moves, but his usage was generally low. Siakam only finished 20.8 percent of his team’s possessions while he was on the floor, which ranks as the second-lowest mark among all players who scored 16 or more points last season.
With Leonard gone, expect Siakam’s usage to skyrocket. Nurse runs an egalitarian offense predicated on crisp ball movement, but the ball tends to end up in the hands of the best scorer. Last season, Siakam’s usage jumped to 25 percent with Leonard off the floor from February onward. But despite more touches and a greater responsibility to create, Siakam wasn’t any less efficient as his true-shooting percentage remained elite at 59 percent.
Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
Siakam, 25, had a case for All-Star consideration last season before he helped the Raptors win a title. He averaged 19.8 points on 50.5 percent shooting in the Finals, and that was despite missing 16 of 21 threes. His shooting numbers have improved in each of his three seasons in Toronto, and yet it still seems like he has room to go from one made three per game to two.
With Kawhi Leonard gone, Siakam’s usage could skyrocket from last year’s 20.8 percent. He’s a great bet to make his first All-Star team in 2019-20.
90s basketball… plus threes
In the first game, it was Canada that brought the intensity and physicality before Australia returned the favour and some in Game 2. That rematch seemed to be a lot more in line with how The Boomers will look to play in the games that count, with Joe Ingles saying after the first game that they were mainly looking to get a feel for what the red and white bring to the table.
Canada had a hot shooting night the first time around but that dissipated in the second game. While Australia didn’t exactly shoot the lights out in their win, the 12 threes they made proved pivotal in pulling away. Both games were tightly contested into the fourth quarter and one would think that trend will continue when they battle again.
There were a couple of chippy moments over the course of the two games as well, with Nurse substituting Kyle Wiltjer late in the first game after he showed some frustration over some excessive contact on the inside while battling for a rebound and Canada up by almost 20.
In the second game, Mitch Creek got out on the break for a layup and after Aaron Best did his best to contest at the rim, the two got tangled as they landed with Creek then clearly hooking Best’s arm and leg so he wouldn’t be able to inbound the ball quickly. A big part of deciding who wins their World Cup meeting will be who handles the physicality better.
Nov. 25: Philadelphia 76ers at Toronto; PK
This is obviously a re-match of last season’s Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, and the Raptors are clearly a team Philly needs to overcome to get to the next level. Four key players from that series are gone, in Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick, but Joel Embiid and Marc “The Embiid Stopper” Gasol remain, so it should be a fun, and close game — and “PK” line (meaning no team is favoured and the point spread is zero) obviously represents that.
According to Sportando, Chinese journalist Sonx Xiang reported the former Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors guard is in “advanced” talks with the Beijing Ducks.
Ben Weinrib of Yahoo Sports noted Lin prefers to play in the NBA but could be open to lacing it up in China. Stephon Marbury notably played for the Ducks for seven seasons, carving out an impressive career after his time in the NBA.
Weinrib also pointed out Lin has talked about potentially playing with his brother, Joseph, on the Fubon Braves in Taiwan’s Super Basketball League if he cannot find a home in the NBA or now China.
Lin won the title last season with the Raptors but appeared in less than one minute of game action in the NBA Finals against the Warriors. He played in just eight playoff contests and averaged 3.4 minutes a night as an afterthought in the rotation.
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