It seems the chatter surrounding Pascal Siakam has been floating in basketball’s rumour mill for months.
Whether he stays or goes, whether the Raptors ultimately decide to offer one of the NBA’s uber-rich contracts, it’s one of those stories that remains unresolved.
In some ways, the uncertainty surrounding Siakam is the proverbial elephant in the room.
There are others in a similar situation knowing potential free agency awaits this coming off-season.
For obvious and clear reasons, Siakam is the most pressing issue with this club, its deficiencies on the court notwithstanding.
With the Atlanta Hawks in town to play the first of two tipoffs over the span of three days, one could argue Siakam auditioned for one of the clubs some have linked as a potential suitor for his services. Given the nature of the NBA’s archaic rules, it remains to be seen if a deal is ultimately consummated.
Beginning Friday, when the Raptors and Hawks wrap up their mini two-game series, players signed this summer will be rendered trade eligible. Additional days of note await, but as of this writing Siakam remained a member of the Raptors organization.
And as of now, the Raptors are no longer mired in a losing funk following their 135-128 win over the Hawks.
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When his game is on, Siakam is a slam dunk all-star capable of being a presence on both sides of the court. When he’s making three-point shots, he becomes near impossible to defend. Defenders can’t get into his body knowing Siakam will easily take them off the dribble and attack the rim.
When he’s nailing jumpers, defenders can ill afford to play off him because Siakam will release his shot with little contest.
Heading into Wednesday’s game, Siakam made a total of seven three-point shots in his past 18 tips. In the first half alone, he made four on five attempts.
Siakam hasn’t made multiple shots from beyond the arc since Nov. 1, when the Raptors ran the Milwaukee Bucks off the Scotiabank Arena court.
In fairness, Siakam has played his best this season when an opponent can’t match up against the veteran small forward. The NBA, after all, is all about matchups.
It’s the same reason why Hawks point guard Trae Young was able to put together an electric stretch in the game’s opening 12 minutes, when he scored nine points and dished off seven assists in helping the visitors take a 39-31 lead after the first quarter.
When he’s running the floor, pulling up in transition, looking assertive and decisive and attacking the rim, there shouldn’t be any reason why the Raptors can’t keep Siakam beyond this season or even beyond the next few months.
Until a clear message is delivered by the front office in terms of the direction it wants to forge, he’ll continue to be bandied about in rumors.
OG Anunoby also finds himself in this big unknown. To a much less extent, the same can be said for Gary Trent Jr., but he wouldn’t command the same kind of haul the Raptors would receive in a deal involving Siakam or Anunoby.
The Raptors’ hierarchy, despite its misses in recent years, isn’t adverse to swinging for the fences, which always leaves the door open for both Siakam and Anunoby to be on the move in what would be a complete restructuring of a roster build around Scottie Barnes.
These are interesting times for the Raptors, made even more interesting with Atlanta being in town. Neither team has distinguished itself this season, each entering Wednesday having lost four in a row.
Defence became an afterthought on this night, as it’s often been on most nights for the Raptors.
In the opening half, Siakam and Barnes combined to score 36 points on 15-of-22 shooting. Toronto still trailed at the break because the Hawks were making most of their shots.
In the opening quarter, Atlanta did not commit a turnover, while the Raptors turned the ball over five times.
As far as entertainment goes, the game’s tempo and high-volume shooting made for a fun night of hoops. This was anything but a slogfest with teams scoring on fast-break opportunities or in the halfcourt.
Siakam was well on his way to a 30-point game, his fifth of the season, by scoring on his patented spin moves, pull-up jumpers in the mid-range and from distance. The game essentially turned into a jump-shooting exercise in the absence of defence.
Siakam went to the line with 30.4 seconds left in the third quarter. He made his first free throw to give him 29 points on the night before hitting iron on his second attempt.
Trent beat the buzzer on a three-point heave as the Raptors took a 103-95 lead into the fourth quarter. Trent entered the night without making a shot from distance in his past two games. He went 3-of-4 from distance in the third quarter, when the Raptors made nine of their 12 three-pointers.
The Raptors were making more than their share of shots, including a 13-foot floater by Jakob Poeltl, by sharing the basketball and getting out in transition when stops were made.
Siakam began the final period on the bench. He re-entered with 6:59 remaining with the Raptors leading by eight points. About one minute later, he eclipsed the 30-point mark as the scoring onslaught continued.
As well as the Raptors shot the ball, it was a two-possession game with 74 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Atlanta could not defend the Raptors as one losing streak came to end, while another would get extended. The rematch is set for Friday night when the Siakam conjecture will once again be front and centre.