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Diving Deeper Into Pascal Siakam's Clutch Struggles and What They Mean for the Raptors

The Toronto Raptors watched Pascal Siakam struggle repeatedly in the clutch this past season but it shouldn't be too much to worry about right now
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Pascal Siakam's performance in the clutch this past season wasn't pretty.

Frankly, that might be a mild way of putting it. He repeatedly came up short in his last-second chances and coughed up the ball with deal-ball turnovers over and over and over again. For the Toronto Raptors, it sucked.

Based on the NBA's definition of "clutch" — when leading or trailing by five points in the final five minutes — Siakam was 14-for-40 (35%) with 45 points, seven turnovers, and 14 assists. He was the fifth-worst player in terms of shooting percentage for players with at least 40 attempts in those situations.

Worst shooting percentage in the "clutch" with at least 40 attempts

Worst shooting percentage in the "clutch" with at least 40 attempts

Diving even deeper into what PBP Stats calls "high" or "very high" leverage situations, Siakam was 15-for-35 (42%) for 42 points with five turnovers.

What does that all mean?

Not much. For one, a year's worth of clutch moments tells you almost nothing about a player. It's too small a sample size to really glean anything meaningful. For his career, Siakam is 56-for-101 (55%) with 156 points in "high" or "very high" leverage situations in the regular season which is an astonishing figure. That's 19% higher than Kawhi Leonard who shot 27-for-75 in the first five years of his career with 88 points in those same situations.

Reading too much into Siakam's 2020-21 so-called clutch struggles when he was the Raptors top option would completely erase the 20-for-36 (56%) with 62 points he posted in those clutch moments in 2019-20. It's merely recency bias that would suggest he can't hack it in the clutch.

That being said, this past season was a learning experience for Siakam and the important thing is he understands that. He's still new to handling the ball in the clutch and he's determined to get better.

"I have to be better at those things because I haven’t done it," Siakam said during his season-ending media availability. "I think the more you do it the more comfortable you get and the better at decision making you get. And I think it just comes, like everything else, with practice."

Earlier in the month after a close loss to the Chicago Bulls, Siakam admitted that he's still getting used to being the guy with the ball late in games.

"I feel like it’s just something new and just learning from those experiences," he said on May 6. "I felt like a lot of players go through their career and don’t get to be in these situations and I’ve been blessed to be in those situations and no matter the outcome, just learning from it. I think that’s something that I feel I can only get better from, it’s all those moments and you learn from it and you hope to make the right decision the next time."

The bigger concern for Toronto isn't so much the misses as the turnovers. At times he was indecisive and out of control with the ball and it was ugly. He's never been the most fluid and in control player, but a lot of that just comes with repetition. If he continues to turn it over late, the Raptors will have to look for someone else to handle things late in games, but one season of lackluster clutch performances shouldn't be very much to worry about.

Further Reading

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