The secret of life is that the truth remains true everywhere. Take physics, for example: gravity is both the tiny force that keeps me comfortable in a chair, that anchors some people (but seemingly less so others) to the ground. But so too is gravity the monstrous force that pushes tides from our oceans, that anchors the moon to our Earth. The truth is true no matter how close you zoom in, how far you zoom out.
Pascal Siakam has been one of the best players in the NBA for almost two months. That’s true, no matter how close you zoom in, how far you zoom out. The consistency of his conquest has meant that Raptors Republic has spilled mountains of digital ink on the topic. Over and over and over and over we’ve described his repetitive genius in repetitive columns, back and forth, tides, pulled by the gravity of Siakam’s achievements.
So what’s left to say about Siakam? He didn’t do anything new, per say, against the Denver Nuggets. His jumpers, isolations, crossovers, spins, passes: like atoms, they’re the building blocks of his superstardom, the tools of his trade. He ate space in the post and stepped back into a rain of midrange beauties on the head of Aaron Gordon, annihilated Jeff Green with a crossover in transition, eurostepped around Nikola Jokic as if gravity itself held Jokic fast. He threw in three triples and hit shot-clock beating stepback jumpers to cool Denver’s momentum in the fourth. He made two perfect plays on Toronto’s last two possessions — create an opening and then hit the open man. The loss wasn’t on him.
His highlights were spectacular, but they weren’t new, not for him. The special has become mundane.
His highlights against Denver were merely same-old products from the same-old tools he’s sharpened to near perfection. No different against Denver, as he simply battled head-to-head against the reigning MVP, who’s even better this season, who put on his best performance against the Raptors. Because why not? Jokic would have been reduced to the status of plot device had he not wrested protagonism from the game with his win-saving block on OG Anunoby at the buzzer. It’s hard to know whose story this game folded into, Siakam’s or Jokic’s, but the very fact of their co-existence in that tenuous and terrible space of narrative, Siakam and the MVP, reveals the extent of the Cameroonian’s rise.
Gravity is perhaps Siakam’s greatest power — or at least the greatest effect created by his powers. He draws more than defense, criticism, too, fans and haters and a whirlwind of firmly held beliefs about his game. It sticks to him, clearly hard for him to shake off. His downs, in the past, have spiraled. But against Denver, the defense fixated on him like Twitter reactionaries, yet he shed Aaron Gordon and his horde of helpers with relative ease. And as the moon is fixed, spinning in place around the Earth, so too does Toronto’s offense revolve around Siakam’s own revolutions. In transition he draws all the eyes and bodies that defenders have to spare, and then more, and only then does Siakam pitch back to Fred VanVleet for moonball triples. They even worked that play into the half-court against Denver. With the game in its dying throes, Siakam handled the ball on two consecutive possessions with VanVleet racing to screen for him, racing away for the jumper. Both times the defense prioritized Siakam over VanVleet — perhaps the best shooter in the NBA this year. And VanVleet made one and missed one. That’s life.
This can be how players improve: incremental until it’s not, lapping tide until tsunamic burst. That’s how Norm jumped up in 2019-20; he went on a hot streak that still hasn’t ended. Maybe Gary Trent jr. is going through the same process. But Siakam surely seems to be, as well. At what point does this simply become who Siakam is? Is this a long hot streak or is this simply the revelation of a truth, true no matter the opponent or the stadium, the defender or the defensive strategies?
“Freddie and Pascal are continuing to play better and inching their way into conversations of instead of just being nice little players,” said Nick Nurse, “they’re star players.”
Breathe with me, like the tides: in, out, in, out. Zoom in. Siakam’s jumper has never been better. His handle has never been tighter. His passing has never been crisper. Zoom out. Points: 25, 33, 24, 27, 30, and now 35. Every game has been a gem, six perfect pitches in a row. Zoom in: “I feel like I can get to the rim anytime I want to,” said Siakam after the game. It sure looks that way. Zoom out: The last time he finished a game with fewer than four assists was the middle of January.
This is what stardom looks like. It’s not bright flashes, eruptions, moments of brilliance surrounded by moments of emptiness. A truth: We are not defined by our best days. Stardom is the sameness of performance, meeting expectations again and again as the moon spins and the tides turn, day in and day out. Stardom is boring. And that’s what Siakam has become. We’re out of words to write about him because he’s done this before, in this way, over and again. Drop your priors and examine him, his game, these past months, the minutiae and totality both. Look full circle. Do a spin, just like him. He’s a star. Pascal Siakam has made that true.