The NBA Awards show’s worst-kept secret is officially out.
Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam is 2018-19’s most improved player, beating out Brooklyn Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell and Sacramento Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox for the award.
Playing 11 more minutes a game, Siakam upped his scoring from 7.3 points last season to 16.9 this year, his rebounding from 4.5 to 6.9 and, most notably, his three-point percentage from 22 to 36.9 percent. Throw in his ability to defend multiple positions extremely effectively, and the other two finalists were really up against it to pull off the upset.
While the playoffs don’t factor into the final voting, Siakam’s performance this post-season further established his position as a rising star in the league. Over 24 playoff games, he averaged 19 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and a steal a game. While his three-point success struggled to carry over from the regular season (27.9%), he still made 54.1 percent of his shots inside the arc during Toronto’s title run.
The most impressive aspect of Siakam’s 2018-19 campaign was the fact that he consistently improved over the course of the season, highlighted by a career-high 44 points to go along with 10 rebounds against the Washington Wizards in February. He emerged as a secondary scorer to Kawhi Leonard, and his ability on the fast break helped the Raptors finish the regular season as the most efficient transition team.
He also set the NBA Finals stage alight in Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors, scoring 32 points on 14-of-17 shooting, including 11 straight field goal makes at one point.
This is a player who was sent down to the G League after struggling to cope with the NBA level just two seasons ago, and has consistently been on the rise ever since, winning G League Finals MVP in 2017.
The final voting tally was a runaway win for Siakam, totalling 86 of 100 first place votes.
Here's the voting breakdown for Most Improved Player. pic.twitter.com/97y7Co3sXo
— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) June 25, 2019
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