Slump Continues for Siakam but Reasons For Optimism Linger

Aaron Rose

The Toronto Raptors playoffs have sort of felt like a referendum on Pascal Siakam so far.

It's been — to quote Raptors coach Nick Nurse — "Pascal, Pascal, Pascal, Pascal, Pascal, Pascal, Pascal, Pascal, Pascal," and it makes sense. The Raptors inked Siakam to a max contract extension prior to this season and with that money comes increased scrutiny and expectations.

For most of the year, Siakam delivered. He went from the Most Improved Player in the league and a No. 2 or 3 contributor on a championship team to the No. 1 guy on one of the league's premiere teams. But coming into the playoffs questions still lingered about Siakam's ability to be the top guy on a title contender.

So far, he's underwhelmed a little. His seeding game slump has carried over into the playoffs where he's averaging just 19.2 points per game on 39.8% shooting, a noticeable drop off from the 45.9% he was shooting before the pandemic.

On Sunday, things did not look good for Siakam in Game 1 against the Boston Celtics. He shot 5-for-16 from the floor and 0-for-3 from 3-point range.

Most of those attempts came off post-up looks of which Siakam had 10 against Boston, leading to eight points. Those numbers are way above his regular season average of just 3.9 post ups per game, with nearly two points coming off those post-ups.

Getting Siakam the ball down low was clearly a focal point for the Raptors coming into the game and the looks weren't that bad.

"They looked pretty good to me, for the most part," Nurse said of Siakam's posting up. "I think that we’re trying to get him going a little bit, so we were trying to get him some touches and that wasn’t a bad way to do it. I think we need to do a little bit more around it, a little bit. I think we need to cut a little bit more and have a little better spacing and relocation and things like that, possibly, if we go into him there."

After the game Siakam had the same takeaway.

"I think I got to where I wanted to," he said. "I’ve just got to finish some of the shots that I took."

The data seems to back up what Siakam and the Raptors have been saying about their star's recent play. Looking at his expected effective field goal percentage — a statistic that looks at how a player is expected to shoot based on shot location, how close defenders are, and time on the shot clock — Siakam has been taking some of the best shots of any high-usage scorer during the playoffs, according to a study done by Darryl Blackport. He ranks ninth out of 26 high-usage scorers in expected eFG%. The problem, however, is Siakam's actual effective field goal percentage is over 10% lower than his expected numbers, the biggest negative disparity of any of the 26 high-usage players.

Taken together, the anecdotal and statistical evidence suggests what Raptors fans probably aren't surprised to hear, Siakam is just missing shots.

Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing will come down to if Siakam can positively regress to league average and his average. If he can, he's certainly do for some breakout games.

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