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The key to the Raptors future is their $130 million forward who was studying to be a priest 10 years ago
After a breakout season in 2018-19, the Toronto Raptors gave Pascal Siakam a four-year, $130 million extension. Siakam had a wild journey to the NBA, from studying in a Cameroon seminary until he was 15, to being discovered in the Basketball Without Borders program. With Kawhi Leonard now gone, Siakam is the face of the Raptors franchise and will have to live up to his new position. Whether the Raptors keep their team together and compete for the playoffs or rebuild their roster, Siakam is at the center of everything they do. Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories. The Toronto Raptors have left no questions about who will lead their franchise in a post-Kawhi Leonard landscape: Pascal Siakam. The 25-year-old forward emerged last season as a two-way force, averaging 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. He also made a marked improvement from distance, bumping his three-point percentage up 14 points to 36%, all while capably guarding four positions on the floor. The leap in his third season earned him Most Improved Player while, of course, helping the Raptors win a championship. His reward this offseason: a four-year, $130 million contract extension.Read more: NBA teams gave out $626 million in extensions on the eve of the NBA season. Here are all the deals. It’s quite a leap for Siakam, who is still relatively new to organized basketball. Siakam has only been playing organized basketball since he was 17. He grew up in Cameroon and was “hand-picked to embody his family’s Catholicism” by his father, according to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan. While Siakam’s three older brothers played basketball and earned scholarships to U.S. schools, Siakam studied in a seminary until around 15. He then began to rebel because he was no longer interested in becoming a priest. Siakam began playing basketball at fellow Cameroon native Luc Mbah a Moute’s basketball camp. Two years later, he got invited to the Basketball Without Borders program, where he impressed scouts and executives with his size, athleticism, competitiveness, and overall potential. Siakam eventually played at New Mexico State, then was drafted 27th overall by the Raptors in the 2016 draft. Siakam spent time in the G League, slowly developing, until his breakout season last year. Expectations will be higher for Siakam this year Of course, with the pay raise comes increased expectations for the new franchise cornerstone. The Raptors famously went 17-5 without Leonard last season. Siakam thrived in those games, though they often came against lesser competition. Foto: Pascal Siakam.sourceLynne Sladky/APAnd while Siakam saw increased defensive attention in those games, it remains a small sample size. NBA teams don’t have all that much time to game-plan in the regular season. In the games Leonard played last season, he was the focus of the opposing defense. When he sat, teams likely went through a walk-through on some of Siakam’s offensive tendencies, but they were likely brief. This year, coaches will have game-planned for Siakam well in advance. Though Lowry and Fred VanVleet are still on the roster to soak up the play-making, Siakam will have to dip into his bag of tricks to create for himself more. He showed signs of it last year when he had a matchup he liked, taking it to the post for spins and fakes and easy floaters. The Raptors will have to do more than just soak up the minutes available in Leonard’s absence – they also lost Danny Green, a key contributor on the wing on both offense and defense. The Raptors took fliers on players like Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, two big, burly wings who can defend and finish around the basket. While they should take the pressure off Siakam on the defensive end, they won’t space the floor as Leonard and Green did. The court could be more crowded for the Raptors this year, and Siakam will have to alleviate that with continued improved shooting and a better ability to work off the dribble. If the Raptors push the pace this year, it’s Siakam’s end-to-end ability that is most exciting (and perhaps where he can do the most damage). Siakam’s game was so raw that he has slowly added elements. That’s what makes him an exciting prospect still – he has a base set of skills that are helpful. If he continues to add things like playmaking and shooting to his arsenal, he’ll be a true star. That is the bet the Raptors are making. Circumstances have changed in Toronto. It’s possible the Raptors look to sell off some of their veteran players to re-tool the roster. It’s also possible that they keep this unit together to defend their title and make another playoff run. In either case, everything revolves around Siakam’s ability to continue to mold his game into that of a leading man.Read more: Stephen Curry is preparing to unleash a vintage season that could see him break records to keep the new-look Warriors alive 16 players who could win NBA MVP this season, ranked Anthony Davis found out LeBron James was gifting him the No. 23 with a surprise gift in a to-go bag at a fancy restaurant LeBron James has played with many former All-Stars who were past their primes when they joined forces. Here are all 15, ranked The post The key to the Raptors future is their $130 million forward who was studying to be a priest 10 years ago appeared first on Business Insider Nederland.
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