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Kawhi Leonard praises progression of former teammates Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam

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Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam have flourished into all-star caliber players over the last two seasons, and while their contributions to the team haven’t gone unnoticed, they don’t seem to surprise former teammate Kawhi Leonard.

During his media availability after his Los Angeles Clippers beat the Raptors on Tuesday, Leonard took time to discuss the emergence of Toronto's stars.

Kawhi Leonard had plenty of praise for former teammates Fred Vanvleet and Pascal Siakam. (Getty)
Kawhi Leonard had plenty of praise for former teammates Fred Vanvleet and Pascal Siakam. (Getty)

“[VanVleet] is just more aggressive on the floor. He’s always had game,” he said. “Going both ways and shooting the ball and he’s just getting more of an opportunity now.”

After the departure of Leonard, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, and Norman Powell, the 27-year-old guard has certainly made the most of his opportunity this season — averaging 19.5 points, 6.3 assists, and 1.7 steals per game.

He scored a career-high 54 points against the Orlando Magic in February, setting a new franchise record for most points scored in a single game which was previously held by DeMar DeRozan. VanVleet also set a franchise record that night for most three-pointers made in the first half, with eight.

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As for Siakam, Leonard had a close look at the forward’s all-star potential during his solo year in Toronto.

“He was doing it when I was there. In that second half of the season for us, he started to flourish and started being very aggressive,” Leonard said. “Attacking the rim, making shots, and making big plays on both ends of the floor. He’s a two-way player.”

During the team’s championship run in 2019, Leonard and Siakam tied Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen for the second-most points scored by a duo in a single postseason, with a combined total of 1,187.

Since then, Siakam was named an All-Star for the first time in his career in 2020 and is currently averaging 21 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game while shooting 45.2 percent from the field.

Despite the improved play of the Raptors' young core, the team has struggled with its consistency — whether it’s due to health and safety protocols or lack of size at the center position.

The Raptors are currently 11th in the East with a 27-39 record, and with only six games left in the season, the team’s chances of making the play-in tournament are beginning to fade.

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