NMSU’s Pascal Siakam Gears Up for First-Ever NBA Finals with Raptors
From his roots in his home country of Cameroon to NBA stardom, the road was far more arduous for Pascal Siakam than most in the NBA. Tonight he will play on the grandest stage in basketball and it is the perfect opportunity to reflect on how he got here.
Revisiting what he accomplished at NMSU, Siakam was a strong competitor in the college ranks but there were obvious reservations about what he could accomplish in the NBA. He played in the WAC, hindering his exposure on the national scale, and two seasons at NMSU, where opponents he faced were more inferior than other top prospects, may have raised questions by scouts.
Still, averaging 20.3 points and 11.6 rebounds in his sophomore season with the Aggies was enough to have NBA scouts turning heads and raising eyebrows. Fast-forward to draft night 2016 and sure enough at No. 27, the Toronto Raptors took a chance on the 6-foot-9 prospect.
After a brief starting stint in the NBA during his rookie season, Siakam was sent down to the Toronto D-League squad to sharpen his game and regain his confidence, according to the Raptors front office. By the end of the season, he was named the most valuable player of the D-League Finals.
He appeared in 81 games during his sophomore season of the NBA, where he put up 7.3 points and 4.5 rebounds off the bench.
But the dramatic jump Siakam made in year three of his NBA career is what makes him such an intriguing piece to the Raptors finals roster. Siakam averaged 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds through the regular season. He's the frontrunner for Most Improved Player of the Year and closed out the season as Toronto's second most viable option behind Kawhi Leonard—possibly insurance if Kawhi leaves?
There's no denying that there's been a dropoff of his offensive play during the postseason. He dropped down in true shooting percentage from 62.8 percent in the season to 46.8 by the conference finals.
As Siakam enters his first NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, his matchup versus Draymond Green will be interesting to watch. He was getting physically dominated night after night by either Joel Embiid or Giannis Antetokounmpo, who both are favorable in size and strength against Siakam. Green is more of a tactical defender and could aim to break Siakam early on in the series.
On the flip side though, Siakam is a skilled and versatile defender. It will be fun to watch him guard Draymond and frustrate him. Should Kevin Durant rejoin the team, Siakam could switch onto him on multiple possessions. Dare I say, Siakam might even be pinned against Boogie Cousins at times during games.
And it all came full circle for Siakam, who once stomped onto the grounds of Las Cruces and made a name for himself in the mid-major world. Now, Siakam has a chance to make a name for himself across the globe during the NBA Finals.