Siakam has no NBA comparison


Few words seem to be used more often, more inaccurately than "unprecedented."

It's thrown around with a complete disregard for history: This pandemic is unprecedented, the political divide is unprecedented, etc, etc.

I was a history student for four years. Trust me when I tell you, history is long and most things aren't unprecedented.

That's what has made Pascal Siakam so special. The Raptors franchise player — who celebrates his 26th birthday today — might actually be unprecedented. He might actually be a one of one, never seen before and unlikely to be replicated.

Zach Lowe brought up the notion that Siakam might have had the biggest two year improvement in NBA history when he was discussing the Most Improved Player award on his podcast with David Thorpe the other day.

That might not just be recency bias. Siakam actually has a case for the biggest two year jump in NBA history.

Here's Siakam's two year improvement in points per game. In Year 1 (2017-18) he averaged 7.3 points per game, in Year 2 (2018-19) he averaged 16.9 points per game, and in Year 3 (2019-20), when he became an All Star, he was averaging 23.6 points when the season came to a halt. Over that span, his points per game average went up 16.3 points.

In terms of usage rate (an estimate of how much a team uses a player on offense), Siakam has gone from a bench player with a 15.7% USG% in 2017-18, to the focal point of the Raptors offense this year, with a 28.5% USG%. That's a 12.5% jump.

Only two players in NBA history compare to Siakam in terms of scoring jump and usage rate jump, while also becoming an All Stars over their two year stretch.

One is Tracy McGrady, who in 1998-99 was a bench player for the Raptors averaging 9.3 points per game, before signing with Orlando in 2000 and becoming an All Star, averaging 26.8 points per game. He saw his scoring average go up 17.5 points per game, slightly more than Siakam.

His USG%, however, only jumped 9.3% over that period and his changing of teams is partially to credit for his drastic improvement.

The other close comparison is Danny Granger, who saw an 11.9 points per game jump between 2006-07 and 2008-09, his lone All Star season with the Pacers.

His usage rate took an 11.4% jump over that period, going from 18.2% to 29.6%.

Some guys, like CJ McCollum, who saw a 16.2 point scoring jump between 2013-14 and 2015-16, never made an all-star appearance and didn't become the offensive focal point for their teams the way Siakam has for the Raptors. Other guys, like Bob McAdoo, who saw a 16.5 point scoring jump from 1972-73 to 1974-75, did made the jump as much heralded prospects and thus their year-over-year improvement was far less of a shock.

It's not an exaggeration to say that Siakam is truly unique. What he's done over his four year NBA career has never been seen.