Why haven't the Raptors offered Pascal Siakam a contract extension?

Imman and Kashtin discuss why the Raptors haven't signed Pascal Siakam to a contract extension, what will change for him under Darko Rajakovic and more. Listen to the full episode on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed or watch on our YouTube.Why haven't the Raptors offered Pascal Siakam an extension?

Video Transcript

IMMAN ADAN: If we're going to be talking about Pascal Siakam, we've got to bring in Pascal Propaganda himself. So let's start off with Pascal Siakam. And I want to do a player preview. If you guys have not checked it out yesterday, Amit and Asad did a player preview. They went over some guys. Today, we're going over some guys. So do check that out as well.

But I wanted to start off with an article that came out yesterday, that was really about missing out on Damian Lillard. But in that, there was a tidbit that caught my eye. I have the exact quote here.

So Michael Grange put out this article for Sportsnet yesterday. And he mentioned that there have been no talks on contract extensions for Pascal Siakam, which-- I want to know what your take is on that. And I want to know what you think this means for Pascal this season in particular.

KASHTIN: So my take on this-- this is what broke me. I think anyone who's followed me on Twitter for the last little while knows I am a serial optimist. I like to feel good about the team. It's not that serious.

This, to me, is like a bridge too far. Just to lay this out, right, let's say they don't give him a contract extension. You're really forced into two choices. Either you trade him at the trade deadline because you feel you don't have a chance to resign him this summer, and you lose all of your leverage, really, because we saw how that played out with Fred VanVleet last trade deadline.

Or you go into this offseason in an attempt to resign Pascal Siakam where he is, without question, the best free agent in the 2024 free agent class. I went through it yesterday. It's Pascal Siakam, age 30, 35-year-old DeMar DeRozan, 34-year-old Klay Thompson. And by the way, OG Anunoby is probably the fourth, maybe the second, who knows, at the end of next season.

So they've put themselves in an unnecessarily difficult position because we've heard through reporting that Pascal Siakam wants an extension. He wants to be in Toronto. And all of this hand-wringing about, oh, do you want to be paying 33-year-old Pascal Siakam a max contract? Jrue Holiday, a 33-year-old Jrue Holiday netted you Damian Lillard, and really, just Grayson Allen, a prospect, and a pick. So any sort of concern about what a 33-year-old Pascal Siakam would look like on our books just went out the-- there's no real downside to this.

IMMAN ADAN: I was going to-- have we seen aging in Siakam where we're like, no, don't want him at 33? Like, we know that guys'-- we know that guys' careers continue to extend. And also, what is that money going to? When people are like, don't want to pay this person, OK, so who do you want to pay? Because you have to pay somebody. And if it's not going to be the best player on your team currently as he's 29 and is showing no signs of slowing down, then who is it going to be? Why are we so pressed about MLSE's pockets? They're fine.

KASHTIN: I think you've raised some really good points because the actual opportunity cost of signing Pascal Siakam is minimal. Because if you let him walk next summer, you don't actually have cap space. You have to retain Gary Trent, Jr. You have to retain OG Anunoby. We might talk about it a little bit later, but the contracts of Precious Achiuwa and Malachi Flynn are both up. Maybe there are big paydays coming for them in the new Darko system. Who knows?

So you're in a position where you might as well get some of this business done early. And we saw the impact that these outstanding contract situations had on last season's team, the influence it had on Gary Trent, Jr., on Fred VanVleet, then bringing in a Jakob Poeltl--

IMMAN ADAN: And on chemistry.

KASHTIN: Exactly.

IMMAN ADAN: We talked about this team playing incredibly selfish. I think if you have three of your top six players all up for contract extensions, you're going to get some it's my turn to shine moments.

KASHTIN: And the challenge is, we now have-- last year, it was three. This year, it's Pascal, it's OG, it's Malachi, it's Precious, it's Gary Trent, Jr. That's five. That's five of your players.

IMMAN ADAN: We're going to go into next season with literally just Scottie Barnes and Jakob Poeltl on the roster.

KASHTIN: That's it. That's all you need. But think your other question was, like, how it will influence Pascal? And I think the good part about Pascal is, he's proven to be a professional. We know last season that there was some contract discussion. He decided to go for All-NBA to make himself eligible for that supermax extension.

I think for the most part, he acquitted himself really well last season, really over the course of his Raptors tenure. Other than the Tampa season, he's been sort of a model citizen for the Raptors. There's really been no off-court issues, anything like that.

IMMAN ADAN: Nick Nurse is gone now. We can just blame Nick Nurse for Tampa.

KASHTIN: We-- just-- you know what? Nothing ever happened in Cleveland. It's all fake news. He was just giving everyone a pep talk. And it got blown out of proportion. [LAUGHS]

So I think in terms of what to expect from him, I know what to expect. Where I'm in the dark, and when we start talking about the specifics of Pascal Siakam on the court, is we've gotten precious little from Darko, even from Masai and Bobby, on what role Pascal Siakam plays in the '23-'24 Raptors. We don't really know anything specific about him.

Everything we know is through the absence of information, and what's been said about Scottie Barnes and Jakob Poeltl. We know that Darko wants the ball in Scottie Barnes's hand more. We know he wants it with Jakob more. By process of elimination, that means it has to be in someone else's hands less. So your highest usage player is probably going to see a little bit of a dip.

So what that means for him, probably trying to get him spotting up more, off ball cutting more, maybe using him as a screener more often, which he's-- he's a Swiss army knife of a player. So he's able to do it all. So I think that's really where I'm curious to see, is this black box of what comes next. How are they using him on the court?

IMMAN ADAN: I'm really glad you said that because it's-- really strike me as being very odd how little Pascal Siakam talk there has been. When your best player is expiring as a contract, and you obviously need to retain as much talent as possible, people have talked ad nauseam about the losing of everybody from that championship team. I think he would be the last person who played in the playoffs, at the very least, from the championship team, and obviously was a giant contributor on that team. If they lose him, it's scary times.

But there's been no talk about what his real role is. There's been talk about everybody else. And maybe that's because, to be an optimist here, and to play devil's advocate, and I don't know how much I truly believe this-- maybe it's just like, we know what Pascal is.

We know what he can bring. We know how-- there's a lot of talk about Fred needed the ball in his hands. Pascal, it's better to put the ball in his hands. It's better for your team if that happens. But we know that, like, Pascal can be an excellent cutter.

Pascal is not an elite shooter, but you can have him spotting up. His catch-and-shoot numbers, at least pre-All-Star last year, were pretty good. They just really dipped, probably because he was carrying the giant load that he was carrying. So maybe a little bit less of a role and having other guys step up as part of this offense matters.

And maybe that's why there's so much focus on everybody else, because it's about getting everybody else involved. And maybe there's no talk about contract extensions because Siakam wants to try to make All-NBA, because Siakam is looking for that supermax. It's sort of a Jaylen Brown situation last year. That's possible.

It remains to be seen. But if I'm just going to put an optimistic spin on this, I think that that's sort of where people can be-- can look at this. If you want an optimistic spin on all of this, that's where you should probably be focused on.

KASHTIN: And that's maybe fair.


KASHTIN: Sorry, my brain instantly went to if I'm a brand-new head coach, I'm probably interested in talking about what my highest usage player looks like on the court. Similarly, if I'm a member of the media, which I am definitively not, an interesting question might be, hey, new coach, how do you intend to use your best player? I don't want to be too big brained about that, but that feels like an interesting question.

But I agree, I think there's a possibility that if offered, he might sign a contract extension. I have no sort of personal, firsthand account knowledge of that. But he's a competitive player like anyone else. Like, why wouldn't you think I could make All-NBA and go for it, and try to get that supermax extension? It'd be very interesting.

Like I said, there's going to be a few teams with cap space. We know the 76ers are loading up a ton of cap space for next summer. And he's going to be the best free agent. All these other players have signed extensions. He's going to be the belle of the ball.

IMMAN ADAN: I need to delete all of my tweets about wanting to see Team Cameroon. I don't want to see it.

KASHTIN: Me, too.

IMMAN ADAN: I don't want to see it, actually.

KASHTIN: Well, Joel Embiid might become French or American by October 10--

IMMAN ADAN: I know, but I don't-- I don't want to see it in the NBA. Like, I would love to see it in FIBA. I would love to see it in FIBA. Just like, no--

KASHTIN: Let's save it for FIBA.

IMMAN ADAN: Save it for FIBA. No, I think that's a very, very fair point about Pascal Siakam. OK, let's shift a little bit to on court. Let's shift a little bit to on court.

So Siakam is somebody who improves continuously every year. This season, I want to look at-- we talked about him being an All-NBA player. We're talking about him being the best player. But that doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement for Siakam as well.

What areas are you looking to see him really improve on this season? And because-- I think part of Grange's article was really about they want to see how he fits in Darko's system before committing to him, which I think, like, he's a system. You could-- he's the system. You make sure Darko can commit to him. But sure, front office is smarter, much smarter than I am.

But what would you like to see him improve on? What do you think the front office maybe is looking for him to improve on, if those are two different things?

KASHTIN: I think the first thing I'm personally looking to see him improve on is really a reduction. He's led the league in minutes played per game for the past two seasons. No player in the 21st century has done it three straight seasons. I would make a strong bet that he does not lead the league in minutes per game.

The things that follow, the ripple effects of that are, how can you be more efficient in the minutes you do play? So if you're playing fewer minutes, does your spot up percentage on 3's go up? Are you better at the free throw line? Do we see a greater defensive impact both with fewer minutes played, and perhaps a more conventional style of defense that sets some of your defenders up for success?

We can see on the court, certainly players like OG Anunoby and maybe to a lesser degree, Pascal, really effective as defenders. But the metrics don't bear that out based on just how frenetic a scheme they played last season. I think by playing fewer minutes, having a more-- or relatively speaking conventional defense, those are the kinds of things that how can you-- rather than playing 37, 38 minutes a night, scaling that back to 33, 34, can you still produce at the same level with greater efficiency, and make a greater impact on the defensive end?

I alluded to this earlier, too, I also anticipate they're going to see a greater variety of play type. I don't think you're going to see quite as much isolation. You might see him do a little bit more as a pick and roll ball handler. But I suspect if they've already said Scottie Barnes is going to be one of the lead ball handlers, Jakob's going to be a bit of a hub.

I would expect to see an increase in Pascal's play types for cutting, for screening, for spot up shooting. And his points per possession on all three of those play types have to improve if he's going to thrive in this new Darko era where his contract's on the line. He'd better, so--


KASHTIN: Yeah, those are the areas--

IMMAN ADAN: An All-NBA spot is on the line, Pascal Siakam.

KASHTIN: That's true.

IMMAN ADAN: And what do you expect from him this season, if that differs at all?

KASHTIN: I don't actually expect it to differ too much. I mean, he's a player who can really fit in wherever you need him.


KASHTIN: We've seen especially the last two seasons, they would throw out lineups where he's effectively both the point guard and the center. And he's able to run the offense, grab the defensive rebound, bring the ball up, and somehow set himself up for an efficient shot. So they can really slot him in anywhere.

I think where I'm most curious to see him get easy baskets is again, cutting. I think with Jakob as a passer, Scottie as a passer, there is an opportunity there for him to find seams in the defense, and slither his way to the basket, and finish. He, for most of his career, has been one of the best finishers within three feet of the basket-- 70%, 75% and up. I think anything that gets him as close to the basket as possible is a good thing.

The other thing that's emerged in the last two seasons is his finishing and efficiency within 5 to 9 feet of the basket, too. And really, I think the way the Raptors are going to be defended with so little spacing, he's going to have to continue to affect the game in those sort of in-between spaces, but probably have to do it by getting to his spots without 5 or 6 dribbles. It might just have to be off of a cut and maybe one dribble.

So being able to do that is-- it's not so much showing that he can. It's showing that he can do it again, if that makes sense.

IMMAN ADAN: No, I'm completely with you. But it's funny, as I'm just sort of picturing Siakam, I'm like, with what spacing? And-- because Pascal Siakam's, of course, not an elite shooter by any stretch. But he's one of the best shooters on this team. Are we going to see him spot up quite often? Because--

KASHTIN: They'll have to--

IMMAN ADAN: --go through the list, like-- but is he going to be-- does he have to be-- how am I trying to phrase this? With so little spacing on the court, does he have to be-- are we going to see more OG, Siakam, in that he's just sort of spotting up in the corner, and we're like, what are you doing? Get involved. Are we-- because we saw that a lot in fourth quarters this season, I felt like. And do you think that that sort of carries over? Or do you expect Darko's offense to, I guess, not do something like that?

KASHTIN: I would expect, like, the reason for Darko optimism, to me, is everything we've heard about really quick decision making. And that's the antithesis of what we saw from the Raptors of last season. They wanted to pound the air out of the ball, get to a specific matchup, and try to make a play.

And by the fourth quarter, you're right, Pascal-- and there was a stretch, that West Coast road trip in March, where again, it's a 6 or a 7-game sample size, something like that, where for the entirety of games, Pascal was just camping out in the corner.


KASHTIN: I had no idea what was going on with the team at that point. It did not look like a fun place to be or to play. So I think this season, it'll be all about how do you get everyone involved and bring that joy of the game. Because you're right, you go through the roster-- I mean, Gary Trent, Jr., OG Anunoby, we expect Gradey Dick to be one of the best shooters on the team. And if Otto Porter plays, he's probably one of the best.

And then at that point, you're looking at Pascal. And he's-- in different sort of configurations, he's shown flashes for a season at a time. The 2018-19 season, he was a really effective 3-point shooter in the corners.


KASHTIN: I think there will be a lot of those looks available to him this season. I think if you look at the following season, his pull-up 3-point percentage was outstanding. And there have been stretches of time where he's been able to recapture that.

I think it's about putting all of those pieces together. And if it's a matter of just keeping him fresher, so bringing his minutes from 38 to 34, does that have sort of an incremental effect on his efficiency throughout the season? Because we've seen how he started seasons.

IMMAN ADAN: I was going to say, if you go by the numbers, if you flip the numbers from beginning of the season to end of the season-- and again, you said it, he's been leading the league in minutes the last few seasons. I think the season before that, he was top seven or something. So it's not like-- it's not like there was any sort of, like, he was not leading the league in minutes at any point.

You go through his seasons, and you do splits of pre-All-Star, post-All-Star, there's a significant drop-off quite often in his efficiency. And I have to imagine a large part of that is the load that he has to carry for this team. And maybe it's a good thing-- definitely, it's a good thing that we're starting to get other people involved in the offense. And we'll talk about Jakob, at the very least, in just a little bit.