- Why Pascal Siakam should be a Piston by the Trade Deadline
Why Pascal Siakam should be a Piston by the Trade Deadline
Any NBA fan knows the drill by now. Take your average All-Star/All-NBA player from a small market, introduce a disappointing season or a failing to reach the conference finals and suddenly, your franchise guy on the last year of his deal requests an extension… An extension? No that can’t be right, you request a trade, fall out with the fan base that’s embraced you for all these years and end up sipping cocktails on Miami beach, rubbing shoulders with A-Listers in Los Angeles or just end up pairing with another All-NBA guy to make a run at a championship in the latter half of your career. That’s the formula All-NBA guys like Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard and Paul George have followed over the years but somehow Pascal Siakam hasn’t got the memo.
Siakam wants to stay in Toronto; stick it out and repay the franchise that’s seen him develop from a rough round the edges rookie to a 2 time ‘All-Star’, 2 time ‘All-NBA’ player and a guy that averaged 24-8-6 last season. It’s that or he wants a Super-Max contract extension but regardless of his reasons the Cameroonian star has found himself in somewhat of a unique position.
As Samson Folk of ‘Raptors Republic’ fame alluded to at media day this year, it’s strange to not extend an All-NBA guy, particularly when he wants to stay. It’s strange to risk losing Pascal for free just as they lost Fred VanVleet in free agency last year.
It’s even more strange to relegate the best player on your team to a role that simply doesn’t suit his skillset which is what Head Coach Darko Rajakovic has done through 5 games this year.
Siakam, a smooth midrange operator, mismatch punisher, isolation scorer and general do it all 6ft 9 wing has found his usage slashed. In the 4 seasons prior to 23/24 Siakam averaged 26.85% usage. This year that’s dropped to 21.8%, 123rd in the league of players who’ve averaged over 25 minutes per game this year. He was 40th last year.
He’s scoring 16.7 PPG, his lowest tally since his sophomore season, mainly finding opportunities in transition or flaring of screens to shoot above the break/movement 3’s. This isn’t Pascal’s game. In a contract year I think it serves everyone’s interests to seek a trade pre-deadline to a team that’ll utilize Pascal as a scorer, screener, handoff hub and playmaker.
Here are some examples of the kind of 3’s Pascal is being asked to make this year:
Clip 1: Not involved in the primary action, leaks out to the perimeter to hit an ATB 3 while Dennis and Scottie worked the empty side PnR
Clip 2: Screener in a horns set, leaks out after drive… pic.twitter.com/PPowOKcVTA
— The Drop Step (@TheDropStepNBA) November 8, 2023
So, where to turn?
Atlanta were the betting favorites in the summer. They reportedly offered Deandre Hunter, AJ Griffin and draft compensation for Pascal but a deal didn’t come to fruition. I don’t see them revisiting after their start to the season. Atlanta have had great success running Jalen Johnson at the 4, a potential MIP candidate, and a combo of Siakam and Johnson on the wings probably doesn’t provide the spacing Quin Snyder’s opted for in the past.
Indiana were rumored to harbor interest pre-draft but I think trading for Pascal would block Jarace Walker’s development.
The Lakers are your prototypical ask out destination, Dallas could do with a wing sized star, a lot of teams should be interested in the 29 year old star, but for my money, the team that stands to gain the most is the Detroit Pistons.
Motor City… They aren’t ready for this step are they? Off to a 2-4 start, funky lineups, a super young team, why would they trade for Pascal? Well, in my mind Pascal is a man for funky lineups. The Raptors have played with less than ideal spacing for the past couple of years; the same years where Pascal put up career numbers. I think Detroit is building something unique, they’re choosing to play big, really big, hammering the glass (48.2 rebounds per game is 5th best in the league so far), they’re leaning on Cade to operate in pick and roll, get to the midrange and put up tough buckets.
I think as the season goes on if Detroit continues to field lineups around Cade with sub-optimal outside shooting we start to see more blitzing, more trapping, forcing the ball out of the 2021 number 1. picks hands.
The key to countering these coverages is having guys that either force you to stick to them on the perimeter, or having guys that can work on the short roll, punish 4 on 3 situations. In my mind; Pascal could slot into a Detroit team just as he would have at Atlanta.
He comes in and he either prevents those coverages or if Cade is blitzed, you suddenly allow one of the more skilled scorers in the league to operate with a numbers advantage. Picture a starting lineup of Cade, Ausar, Bojan/Burks, Siakam and Duren. You’re insanely long on the defensive end, can still crash the boards, keeping that defensive identity that Monty’s seemingly trying to instill.
I like the balance of the high value youth guys within the organization being surrounded by complimentary experienced guys. Pascal would fit seamlessly in the front court next to Jalen Duren so showed ability last year to operate in high low actions, finding the likes of James Wiseman in the post. Swap out James for a guy like Pascal and suddenly you’re cooking with gas.
With Siakam operating out of the post, getting elbow touches you install a high level facilitator that can continue to find Ausar Thompson on cuts, that can develop a high level two man game with Cade, that benefits from the spacing that Bojan/Monte/Burks provide. While he isn’t Klay Thompson (he’s being used like Klay in Toronto this year) the fit works and it equips you to play against up and coming teams in the East.
Orlando looks set to make a push this year, adding Pascal to take the Paolo assignment doesn’t hurt.
You’re really switchy against Tyrese Haliburtons Pacer teams with Pascal able to hold his own against Tyrese at the 1 and Myles at the 5.
You can battle on the inside against the bruising Knicks and the double big Cavaliers.
I think sometimes “ideal” fit is boiled down to the following formula:
Star (Cade) + 3 shooters + role threat (Duren)
Does that make Cade’s life the easiest, sure. It provides him the most space, but, unless you think Cade is the single best offensive engine in the league, able to go toe to toe with a Celtics team putting up a 126 point offensive rating this year, and everyone else in the conference I don’t think that works for Detroit.
They need to build differently. So how about this formula:
Two robust isolation scorers and playmakers + insane defensive presence.
You aren’t the Warriors, you aren’t the Nuggets but you aren’t going to be them without a top 10 player in the league. Instead, you’re channeling the Pistons legacy battling against star filled big markets with a talented group that you hope can build the chemistry to overcome the glitz and glamor of other championship contenders.
But how do you go and get Siakam?
Giving up significant draft capital for Pascal is too big a risk for a team that still needs to add talent to its young core. They aren’t ready to go all in. And so, I propose that you get ahead of the currently brewing Jaden Ivey situation, and trade Jaden for Pascal in a straight swap plus salary filler.
“No! Rebuilding teams can’t trade away young talent for older stars who aren’t going to win you a championship.”
It could be argued that sending sophomore Jaden Ivey north of the border for Siakam, 29, is breaking a classic GM commandment. It’s gone wrong before but as I said above, I think doing this is better than letting a currently valuable asset play the 7th most minutes per game (20.2) on a team that’s 2-4 at the time of writing lose that value if he isn’t the kind of player that Monty Williams sees fitting into his Pistons project.
Needless to say, we’ve seen Williams clash with young talent before, most notably last time out in Phoenix with Deandre Ayton. If a player doesn’t match his standards on the defensive end of the floor he’s happy to play a more workman like role player. For the Suns it was Jock Landale; for the Pistons it’s seemingly Killian Hayes. There’s a good chance that this all blows over. Maybe Jaden grows into his role this year and forms a fun back court next to Cade in Michigan for years to come. We know that Devin Booker and Chris Paul were the engine of a contender for the Suns, Monty runs creative sets to utilize a rolling 5 opening up space for his perimeter ball handlers, if Jaden develops his in between game those two could replicate some of the successes that Book and CP3 had in Arizona.
But at the moment that doesn’t seem as though it’ll be the case. Not only has Williams taken a liking to Hayes but he’s starting to give Marcus Sasser plenty of run too. I think there’s a case for trading Ivey for an all-star talent that can help the young core develop, potentially push them ahead of schedule, even if you’re sacrificing some of the franchise’s long-term upside.
So why do Toronto trade Siakam for a guy who’s playing 20 minutes a game in his 2nd year? Because the Raptors have the biggest imbalance of talent between their front court and backcourt in the entire league. After losing Fred VanVleet in free agency last year there’s a serious roster issue that needs addressing regardless of how Dennis Schröder plays. The Raptors have their wing pairing sorted for the future with Scottie Barnes and OG Annunoby, they have money invested in their center position with Jakob Poeltl, Grady can potentially play shooting guard long term so a dynamic backcourt talent is what the Raptors should be going after.
The space Jaden Ivey creates on this step back is nuts pic.twitter.com/Qeco4lHp5n
— AlexHoops (@AlexHoops_) October 31, 2023
Jaden seems like a match made in heaven. A dynamic on-ball player that can produce rim pressure on his own, showed a developing pick and roll game in his rookie year and has a rapidly developing shot from the outside. Introduce him to a culture that has a track record of success developing the skills of project players, Pascal being the crown jewel in that respect, and I think Toronto are set up with a young exciting core for years to come.
There’s a lovely synergy of having Scottie as your focal point, pushing transition, operating in isolation, initiating handoffs, screening, essentially being the team’s swiss army knife with all these complimentary players in the tool box. I think in time Jaden can develop into an incredibly useful tool on offense, potentially up his game on the defensive end which seems to be Monty Williams’ main gripe at the moment, and join a burgeoning youth movement in Toronto that looked to be in a precarious position weeks before the season started.
Jaden Ivey gets to the rim in a blur off the catch pic.twitter.com/UCqmGbMzkp
— Rip Haminkton (@RedAlternates) November 2, 2023
What do you think? If Jaden Ivey gets the Deandre Ayton treatment can the Pistons score a more attractive return than Pascal Siakam? Is Ivey too much of a risk to move on from Siakam, should Toronto prioritize draft picks in a Siakam return. Do you see the fits on both sides? Let me know in the comments below but for my money this is the trade idea you haven’t seen yet that’ll grow on you as the season goes on and one that I think we could potentially see before the trade deadline this year.