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Pascal Siakam Once Wanted to Be 'The Guy' But The Raptors Don't Appear Sure if He Is

The Toronto Raptors say they believe in Pascal Siakam but aren't ready to engage in contract discussions until they see how this season goes
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You may recall back in 2021 Pascal Siakam did an interview with the New York Times in which he vented about not feeling like “the guy” for the Toronto Raptors. As he put it, as long as Kyle Lowry was on the team, Siakam said he “never really felt like I was the guy, to be honest.”

In the years since the interview, Siakam has only added to his resume. He stepped into the void Lowry left and earned All-Star and All-NBA honors in the subsequent seasons. But whether the Raptors are actually treating him like a player of that stature is a little less clear.

For what it’s worth, Siakam had a case of amnesia when asked about those 2021 comments. He didn’t recall the interview with the Times. But what’s clear is his status with the Raptors organization remains up in the air.

“For me, I’m under contract, right? I’m a Raptors player,” Siakam said during his Media Day availability. “That’s literally what I’m focused on. I’m focused on the present and that’s all I can really care about right now.”

In that sense, both Siakam and the Raptors appear to be on the same page. Toronto too is focused on the present, seemingly unfazed by Siakam’s upcoming free agency next summer.

Here’s the situation: Siakam is eligible for a contract extension worth up to a maximum of 30 percent of the salary cap, or roughly $202.28 million over four years following this season. Typically, players of Siakam’s stature sign those extensions before they enter free agency. It’s why so few star players these days ever hit the open market in free agency. And yet, Toronto is in no rush to actually sign a deal and has yet to engage the 29-year-old in serious contract discussions.


“We do believe in Pascal. We believe that a lot of our players didn’t play the right way last year and we want to see them play the right way,” said Raptors president and vice-chairman Masai Ujiri. “I said that we were selfish, I’m not running away from that. We were selfish and we did not play the right way. So let us see it when we play the right way.”

Siakam, for his part, said he’s never been a selfish player. He plays the game the “right way,” he said.

The question for the Raptors is does that way jive with what the organization and new head coach Darko Rajaković is looking for?

“We’re going to try to move the ball more, we’re gonna try to implement .5 offense,” Rajaković said. “I never liked heavy ISO style of basketball. I don’t think it can be winning on the highest level. I think my biggest thing is going to be to get guys to buy in that doing less is actually doing more.”

While Siakam wasn’t a heavy-ISO player, per se, he did average nearly four ISO possessions per game last year with nearly 16 percent of his possessions coming in isolation.

This season, it appears the Raptors want to move away from that. Take the ball out of Siakam’s hands a little more and create a more egalitarian offense with ball movement. Yes, the ball will still find the best players’ hands, Rajaković said, but it will look different than it has in years past.

For now, the Raptors seem heading for what is essentially a trial period with Siakam. They “believe” it can work with him, but until they see what he looks like in this new system, that belief isn’t strong enough to extend the kind of offer a player of Siakam’s caliber would usually command. He may end up being the guy for Toronto, but it appears right now that the Raptors aren’t quite sure.