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Houston Rockets: Is Toronto Raptor Pascal Siakam a good enough return for James Harden

Pascal Siakam #43 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Pascal Siakam #43 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
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Houston Rockets
Pascal Siakam #43 of Toronto Raptors, James Harden #13 of Houston Rockets (Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)

Is Pascal Siakam the franchise player for the Houston Rockets

Last season, with the departure of Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam was forced to carry more of the Raptors offense and for the most part, he did an admirable job. Siakam’s shot attempts per game shot up from 11.8 field goal attempts a game in 2018-19 to 18.4 in 2019-20 and his scoring average followed suit as it went from 16.9 points to 22.9 points per game.

The efficiency that fueled Siakam’s breakout in 2018-19 disappeared under the sheer weight of his offensive volume and his shooting numbers, especially on 2-pointers, cratered from 60.2-percent to 49.9 percent. It is completely normal and expected for a player’s shooting efficiency to dip as they increase their shooting volume but going from 16-percent better than league average to 5-percent worse on 2-pointers indicates that Siakam’s scoring ability still has plenty of room to grow.

It’s still early, but this season Siakam’s 2-point efficiency has rebounded to 51.1-percent as he’s finishing better at the rim than he did last season and is hitting over 50-percent of his mid-range attempts all while having the smallest percentage of his 2-point shot attempts being assisted. Siakam’s struggles last season, as an offensive focal point, were well documented but he is showing everyone why he won the Most Improved Player award in the first place, as he continues to round out his offensive game.

With added shot creation responsibility Siakam is also posting a career-high assist-percentage of 20.7-percent, which won’t have him confused with John Stockton, but it is a positive development nonetheless. The struggles that Siakam has endured over the previous season are starting to pay off as he’s becoming a better shot creator for himself and others.

Even with these improvements, he’s still miles away from being James Harden but the one consistency of Siakam’s career has been improvement. He grew from a bench piece into a crucial cog in a championship-winning team, then he became a team’s offensive focal point, and after the necessary growing pains, he has continued his upward trajectory.

It should be painfully obvious that Siakam will never be James Harden on offense, but it can be equally stated that Harden will never be Siakam on defense. Standing 6’9 with the lateral agility of a guard Siakam can cover wings and power forwards, which gives him the defensive versatility that NBA teams look for.

Even if Siakam is more of a second option on offense his ability to take on tough defensive assignments makes him a number one option on that side of the court. Great perimeter defenders don’t post gaudy statistics because when your job is to cover the best scorers in the world you’re in the business of slowing people down, not stopping them outright.

Basketball remains an offensive game but Siakam’s work on the defensive end is a plus and if his offense continues to grow he could start to look more and more like a Scottie Pippen type. Yes, Pippen is the world’s most famous number two and Siakam would thrive next to a player like James Harden, but don’t forget the Bulls won 55 games in 1993-94 without Michael Jordan.

Next: Is Siakam worth it for the Rockets?

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