With the NBA season back in full swing, the challenge that the players will face in their quest for a championship becomes clearer. While it’s foolish to argue that this restart will decide the legacy of an NBA player or organization, it certainly can help to build up one should they go the distance.
Just as Hercules had to overcome 12 challenges or labors in order to prove himself to be worthy, NBA superstars will be taxed in a way they never have before. Superstars will be responsible for carrying their teams on the court like usual but they will also have to keep their groups focused, engaged, and united in their quests for a championship. Here are the biggest challenges that 12 NBA superstars will face as they seek to win the title. Now batting…Spicy P.
Pascal Siakam has done nothing…nothing but get better in each of his 4 seasons in the NBA. Last season Pascal emerged at exactly the right time — most improved player award certified — to help catapult the Toronto Raptors their first NBA title. Going into this season few believed that Toronto had the juice, without Kawhi, to maintain themselves as an Eastern Conference powerhouse. Yet, that’s exactly what they did. And just like he’d done each of the previous 3 seasons, Pascal got better. Minutes per game…up (31 to 35). Field goal attempts…up (12 to 19). Rebounds…up (6.9 to 7.5). Assists…up (3.1 to 3.5). And with the increased workload his percentages have largely remained consistent. His three point shooting has stayed around 36% and his free throw shooting has increased to 80%. However the one area of decline is in his percentage on two’s…down from 60% to 50% — still an excellent percentage considering the volume.
If you’ve tuned into Raptors games this season you’ve no doubt seen Siakam’s talent on display. In transition he feasts. Both as a wing finisher and as a rebound and go initiator. His ball handling, length, speed, quality decision-making allow him to be dynamic in the open floor. Per Synergy Sports, Siakam has scored 281 points in transition so far this season, which ranks 7th overall among all players.
Defensively, he’s a coach’s dream. His long frame, wiry strength, and quick feet allows Nick Nurse to deploy him on big wings like Giannis and on compact bruisers like Jimmy Butler.
As the Raptors gear up for a playoff run, the area of Siakam’s game that will need to be great is in the half-court, in late-game situations. Arguably the biggest void left by Kawhi was how will the Raptors win tight games down the stretch. Yes, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet will certainly have the ball in their hands and be called upon to hit big shots, but Siakam is the player with the size and talent to get any shot he wants late in games. Siakam will be asked to deliver in similar ways to Kawhi. Ball on the wing. 11 seconds on the clock. Down 1. Can Siakam create a quality shot for himself or for others. This will largely determine the viability of the Raptors as a Finals contender. He delivered against Philly earlier this season.
He will have to deliver again if the Raptors hope to repeat as NBA champions.
by Frank Greco (@fgreco12)