Pascal Siakam's leap in ball-handling, shooting will make scoring easier for Raptors

Pascal Siakam vowed he was going to take another step after last season. Based off footage from offseason scrimmages, Siakam kept his word. Listen to the full episode looking at takeaways from the Rico Hines runs on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast or watch on our YouTube.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: Yeah. Yeah, I love it. Speaking of tighter handles, Pascal. Again, Rico Hines, I keep on saying this.

Rico Hines run? Who knows? But when you mention Scottie Barnes and the ball being tighter to his body and not being fluctuating as much, there are occasions last season with Pascal that we kind of just see him lose a ball. Not always in turnovers, but he'd be dribbling. He'd just lose the ball, right?

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Yeah.

AMIT MANN: And he's worked extensively on keeping his body lower to the ground to obviously control your dribble better. But now it seems like he's adding a bit more finesse to it where he's really comfortable doing crossovers. And these little changes to Pascal's game is going to make him more of a face up player. And he's talked about it.

Nick Nurse has talked about it that he has to be more of a face up player. That's what all the greats are, right? They're not always posting up.

When you're on the perimeter, you can't be doing post ups from the 3 point line, right? You've got to be able to see things coming. You've got to be able to see cutters coming. You got to be able to see your teammates.

You've got to see the court. You've got to use that vision passing, which he already has. He's already shown that he's got this basketball IQ that's continuously growing, and he's able to find players when he was getting all kinds of doubles this past season and having a better dribble. You know, he makes those first two moves if his head is still up because he's still confident in his handle. He's going to be able to find other drivers and he's going to have a better probably-- a better finishing ability around the rim too if he's got a better handle on the ball.

Those are some things that I saw from him, but I think some people are a little bit down on the first clip we saw from the Rico Hines run where Pascal was missing a lot. Man on man, they're look, has he been working out at all? What's going on here? Like, yo. This--

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: That is the funniest thing because it's like, it's both sides of it, right? We can react. We can overreact to a Scottie Barnes, you know, dribble and pull up 3.

And then on the other side, we can also overreact to, oh my God, Pascal missed, like, two jumpers. I think a lot of times, players use Rico as a way to warm up and, like, get into their routine. So I think Pascal in a lot of ways is probably similar to that where he's using this week or whatever that they're in Rico to kind of get into rhythm and then build off of that into whatever he does for the rest of the off-season. I'll say about Pascal. I think when it comes to that handle getting tighter and him being more of a face up player, you look at a guy like Giannis Antetokounmpo, and I'm not making a comparison between the two, but what he was doing two, three seasons ago, which was an MVP caliber season--

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --he was a lot more of a, OK, I'm going to dribble at you. But as soon as I see a little bit of pressure, I have to turn around and post up because my handle isn't tight enough. That's changed now for Giannis.

He is very comfortable getting into a little bit of a crossover in between, try to beat you off the dribble. And he doesn't go to a go-to post up, you know? Same thing kind of applies to Pascal. Not in the same vein because Giannis is just Giannis, right?

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: But in that same light, you don't want to have your go-to move be it post up. So if you can get to the face up, get into a crossover between, that is a perfect way to kind of build out a better offensive repertoire. And then with that being said, like, this year for Pascal coming up, he is in the midst of his prime. He is entering a stage in his career where he feels a level of comfort. And I think that is going to be huge when it comes to just what he knows and what he doesn't know about his game. Like, at this point, there's a level of self awareness that is huge when it comes to Pascal.

And him being able to recognize, OK, I need to do this better, I need to do that better-- he's mentioned in a lot of interviews that he's done recently too. I think that's huge going into next season. So--

AMIT MANN: Yeah, and yeah, knowing, right, when it's obvious to you and you're looking at your game and the things that you need to work on and your weaknesses, if you can say that these are the things I've got to work on-- and obviously, 3 point shooting was probably one of the biggest goals for him. But there are other small things in there that he needs to improve about his game. And when you're trying to become the best version of yourself and trying to be a top five player, there are always things to work on, obviously. But with Pascal now, looking at his 3 point shot, the pull up shot, just being able to get better offensive looks further away from the basket because there is going to be crowds around him-- probably not, at least hopefully not, to the extent that it was this past season because the Raptors' spacing will be better because hopefully, they have better 3 point shooters, which is going to open up things for everybody, but making his life easier, right?

His offense is very difficult right now, and it's by choice because that is the strength of his game is being able to get in the paint and cause havoc but sometimes, you do need-- even for the longevity of his career, right? Sometimes you do need to be able to get better offense further away from the basket.

It could be pull ups, it could be hand-offs, just being able to hit those free throw line extended shots a bit more consistently and I love the pull ups. I love his being able to step back this past season. He really did take a step there as well.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Yep.

AMIT MANN: All very good things for him, and it's going to make him-- hoo! Might be his best season yet coming up here. It might be.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Honestly, it really might be. I think that range point you brought up is really interesting because we saw such an improvement last season through that. And there's no reason that that can't get better.

You know, the thing is-- so let me look at this. I just wanted to double check. He shot on-- on all mid-range shots, he shot 46%, which is in the 80th percentile for his positions. It's pretty damn good.

AMIT MANN: Yep.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: And he's ever improving in that. So I think the biggest thing with him is obviously just getting into rhythm. And like you said, with the handle getting tighter with Scottie and how that is going to help his pull up jumper, the same thing applies to Pascal. If your handle is tighter, you're going to be able to get into emotion, a lot quicker, the shooting motion a lot quicker.

AMIT MANN: Fair.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: And it just makes life easier for you as a creator.

AMIT MANN: Yeah. On that percentage too, I think it's important to keep in mind the kind of players who are going to be shooting from the mid-range area. Those are like-- I like calling the mid-range area the survival of the fittest where only the strong survive, Mobb Deep, because people can't-- not everyone can make baskets from there, right?

It's a really hard spot. It's like, that's why the NBA transitioned to 3 point shots and layups because the mid-range area, there's less space. It's very crowded. It's tougher. And so him being able to be at that percentage against some of the other players-- a LeBron, a Kevin Durant, Brandon Ingram, even-- those kinds of players are able to hit--

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Devin Booker, DeMar DeRozan.

AMIT MANN: Yeah. All that, man. Like, it's a pretty impressive percentage, right?

That means he's being accurate. He's reading the defenses really well, and he's, like, not throwing up shots that he's not really sure about. He's being very calculated with his mid-range game. So, love that.