What does Pascal Siakam need to become a top-5 player?

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam stated on media day that he has ambition to become a top 5 player in the NBA. How close is he to that? Where does he needs to improve and how can his teammates help? Full video projecting the season averages of several Raptors is available on our Yahoo Sports Canada YouTube.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: --coming season, I'm going to look at his post-All-Star numbers instead of his full season as our first launching point. Because I think it's a better representation of what he's going to be this upcoming season. So post-All-Star Break, 24.5 points per game, 49% shooting on 19 field goal attempts, 33% from 3, eight rebounds, five assists.

Quick trivia for you, sir-- do you know the six players outside of Pascal Siakam who averaged seven rebounds and five assists last season? Six guys.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: More than seven assists, seven rebounds?

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Yeah, OK.

AMIT MANN: Seven and seven plus, [? five ?] plus.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Yeah. Jokic.

AMIT MANN: Yes.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: LeBron.

AMIT MANN: Yes.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Luka.

AMIT MANN: Yes.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: You said seven guys?

AMIT MANN: Six. Six. Six.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Oh, six guys? Let's see, who else would be there? Maybe--

AMIT MANN: Seven total with the--

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Maybe Brandon Ingram?

AMIT MANN: No.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Brandon Ingram-- no? Let's see, who else-- who else could be in this conversation? LaMelo Ball?

AMIT MANN: No.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: No?

AMIT MANN: No.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Trying to think of guys who get both rebounds and assists on a good basis here. Let's see-- LeBron, Jokic. Obviously, I said Luka, yes. Chris Paul? I highly doubt that. No.

AMIT MANN: No, he did not. I'm going to give you a couple more seconds. Don't think too hard about it. Because some of these are a bit more obvious than you might think.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Oh, really? OK.

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: All right, let's say-- I don't know, man, Giannis. Giannis is another--

AMIT MANN: Four.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Yeah, Giannis is another one.

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Embiid? Joe. Embiid?

AMIT MANN: No.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: No, no, he didn't have more than--

AMIT MANN: Very close. He was very close, though. He didn't have-- he had 4.2 assists.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: OK.

AMIT MANN: So it was very close.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: I got you.

AMIT MANN: I'll give you the last two.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Sure.

AMIT MANN: You were very, very close. Kevin Durant, Paul George.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Oh, OK, nice.

AMIT MANN: Right?

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Yeah.

AMIT MANN: So that's six, and Pascal Siakam is the seventh in that category. I made it seven assists instead of eight so I could include Kevin Durant and Paul George. But if you make it eight rebounds and five assists, it's LeBron, Giannis, Luka, Jokic, and Pascal Siakam.

So those-- those two right there, I don't think they're going to change. I think he's still going to be doing eight rebounds a game. And I think five assists could be the number that we're looking at overall, if he's going to be more of a primary option, which I mean, on the season, he averaged 17 field goal attempts.

But in that stretch that I'm talking about, post-All-Star Break, it was 19. You could see it going up-- better shooting, better catch-and-shoot opportunities, better players hitting those shots, that kind of stuff. That does matter.

But I think 24.5 points is a reasonable number. If he's hitting that for the entire season, that would be a huge point of progression. Because like you know, he's very good in a lot of areas. It's, like, within the margins he has to improve.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Absolutely, yeah, and I think one of those margins is obviously the better 3-point shooting and free throw shooting. Look, getting to the rim is something that he is extremely good at. And if he-- he obviously gets calls. If he can nail let's say three or four more free throws a game, that's going to bring-- bring his free throw number up. It's going to bring his points per game number up. So I could see that easily.

The one thing I'll say about Pascal is, I really do think his assist numbers will go up this year.

AMIT MANN: Sure.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: He's been hovering at around what, about five-ish for the last two seasons as a primary guy. But now, with Nurse saying there's more emphasis to get him on ball more and have Fred off ball more, obviously having Scottie in there as well is going to--

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --maybe limit him a little bit. But I think there's no kind of dispute that Pascal is the primary ball handler for this team now. I think that will come with more assists.

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: So I could see him having, like, a 25, eight, and seven type of season.

AMIT MANN: Mm.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: If that free throw number goes up, obviously the rebounds would probably stay the same, and--

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --the assists kind of upticks. Maybe two assists more a game, you know what I mean? The assist percentage will be way better this year, though.

AMIT MANN: Do you think 19 shots a game is the sweet spot for him?

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: I think he could probably get up more.

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: I mean, I'm not-- I'm not sure. I think that varies throughout the season. And obviously, we're going to talk about it. But there's guys who are going to end up taking up-- taking more shots this year.

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Right? So I have to see how it plays out. I think 19 to, like, 20, 21 is probably the sweet spot for him.

AMIT MANN: Right.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: In that range kind of makes sense in terms of how many minutes he's going to play also, what kind of lineups he's going to play in. That's the huge aspect here. But yeah, I think, look, he'll probably be--

The other thing is, just to add on to this, he shot 42% on corner 3's last year.

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Which is, in my opinion, is just wild to think about. If they can figure out a way to get him in the corner more--

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --and that's his sweet spot, and you have, like, Scottie create, kind of have him open on the corner, that's a couple extra points. That's improving his 3-point percentage.

So if that happens-- and we talked about new wrinkles. If that's one of the new wrinkles that Nick Nurse is going to be incorporating, maybe we'll see an uptick in the 3-point percentage, too.

AMIT MANN: It would be terrific for him, that's for sure, if we saw that uptick. I think it's something that has to happen if he wants to be a top five player. You can be a person that is a liability-- and he was pretty good.

Like, catch-and-shoot 3's last season, he was 36%. That's a pretty good number. But the left corner, 64.7%. The right corner, 36%.

Above the break-- this, I think, is an area where we might need to see some changes if he wants to become that guy-- he shot 31.4%. And you look at dudes like Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, guys who are, like, inching themselves into being the top five-- I mean, Luka's probably already there-- Kevin Durant, they're around 35%, 36%. And--

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Yeah.

AMIT MANN: --the larger question we get to is the pull-up 3 when he's a ball handler in the pick and roll. Are teams going to be OK with just slipping underneath screens and just letting him shoot the shots because they're not really that confident that he's going to make it? Can he make that switch?

We are talking, like, 4% or 5% jump. That's a pretty significant-- it's a really big one. And I don't think he's going to get to-- there, necessarily. But 31.4 is a little bit low. And just the way it's going to diversify his offense and make him a threat if he's able to be a competent above the break shooter, it's such a game changer.

And even just, like, the pull-up shot from 3, those aspects, those are easy points that he's kind of leaving on the table. And we'll see if he can really up that up a little bit, you know?

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Well, even just taking that shot more. I think he-- correct me if I'm wrong, I remember checking this out a couple days ago, but he maybe only attempted one a game? Like, two a game from above the break?

AMIT MANN: 25-- well, sorry. I'm looking at pull-up 3's-- 35 pull-up 3's last season.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Total? Total--

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --right?

AMIT MANN: And he shot 25.7% on it.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Yeah, so I mean, if he were to just attempt more, it's going to keep the defense honest, at least, to be able to contest some of those shots. I mean, yes, they're going to go under a majority of the time. But they're going to press him a little bit more if he's attempting more of them, right? So--

AMIT MANN: No question.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --I think it is about keeping the defense honest and, like, just throwing up a shot here just to see what you can get out of it. And on top of that, he's obviously had an improved mid-range game-- the long mid-range, the short-range area. Those are two areas where he's, like, really refined his game.

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: I think that-- I think that, like, doubling down on that is going to be huge, as well. It's like, just--

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --be very good in the mid-range area, like a Kevin Durant, like a Paul George. Be that--

AMIT MANN: No question.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --fluid guy who can get to his spots in those spots--

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --in those areas.

AMIT MANN: In the paint, non-restricted area, he shot 50%. A pretty good number, but there's room for growth there. Restricted area, 66.8%. And then the mid-range, 35.8%. So again, these are good numbers.

But if you want to become that guy-- and the free throw percentage, the 3-point percentage, even those alone can get him to 24 points per game, right? But if you want to get to, like, 26, 27, something crazy like that, those areas specifically would improve spacing, less crowded. He's not going to be guarded by five players, as we saw many times, especially in that 76ers series-- holy smokes. It's going to help him quite a bit.

And I wonder if we are going to see a little bit more pick and roll. Maybe not him as the ball handler, maybe, but even as the roll man, roll man. And we'll get to, like, a Fred, a person who's got such gravity at the 3-point line, he can hit shots from 25 feet, that kind of stuff. But those kinds of little wrinkles, too-- he shot-- he got 1.39 points per possession as a roll man last season.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Yeah.

AMIT MANN: That's a great--

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Yeah, he was-- by the way, that was the best of all the things that you can kind of go and look at on nba.com. He's decent as a pick and roll ball handler. He's pretty good on the catch-and-shoot, cutter, et cetera. But the best was him as a roll man.

And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that, like, in that short-range area, especially when teams are going to play drop on you, that is-- he can just annihilate a defense in that type of scenario. So look, if they do end up running more pick and roll just in general, I think it's going to help a guy like Pascal--

AMIT MANN: Sure.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --who has gotten better at his manipulation in pick and rolls, especially as the ball handler, but even as a roll man, short roll guy, making passes to the corners, et cetera, et cetera. Like, it just opens up so much more for him to do. So yeah, I agree, if they increase their pick and roll percentage, then it'll help Siakam a ton.