The Toronto Raptors weren't given much of a chance versus the Milwaukee Bucks. With how well Giannis Antetokounmpo was playing and the way the Bucks handled the Boston Celtics, many were expecting the Raptors to taste defeat in five or maybe six games. Well, a team tasted defeat, but it wasn't the Toronto Raptors. The NBA's Canadian representative lost the first two games of the series, but won four straight to finish off the up-and-coming Bucks. The win put the Raptors in the NBA Finals for the first time in their franchise's history. And their reward for winning the Eastern Conference Championship is to face the Golden State Warriors. The team many predicted to win the NBA title before the season started is banged up going into the series, but they are still the favorites according to betting lines. So with the familiar position the Raptors are in, do they really have a chance? Well if they do, Pascal Siakam is going to have to be a key player for them.
The third-year player out of New Mexico State enjoyed his best season in the NBA this year, doubling his point per game average while improving his rebounds and assists per game. But his improvement on the offensive end isn't just shown in the numbers, but in his ability to make things happen. And that ability can serve him well against the Golden State Warriors. Besides Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard, the other primary ballhandler for the Raptors is Siakam, but the difference is it isn't always by design. Siakam, along with Leonard, have the size to rebound amongst the trees and can push the tempo. Where this will serve the Raptors well against the Warriors is it will allow them to get baskets against the Warriors when their defense isn't set. Siakam is athletic enough and big enough to finish at the rim when he gets there and he can find other people for open shots. The Raptors will need another playmaker offensive to cause problems and Siakam fits the bill when he is aggressive. Pushing the tempo will also allow him to get into the flow of the game and make him even more dangerous on the offensive end of the court with his three-point shooting and infectious energy.
Siakam can be dangerous when he is aggressive offensively, but he can also be a great weapon on the defensive end. The Raptors boast three players who have established reps on the defensive end in Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol and Kawhi Leonard, but Siakam is actually a guy that could cause some issues for the Warriors offense. Kawhi can guard many positions on the court and at the start of the series, it would not be far-fetched to expect him to take Draymond Green to start the series in the absence of Kevin Durant. Now if Durant comes back this series, expect Kawhi to guard Durant, but to guard other people like Steph Curry and Draymond Green still too. That seems like a lot for one man, which is where Siakam comes in handy. Siakam, like Kawhi, can guard multiple positions and most importantly, he is a very solid defender that can give Kawhi a break on the defensive end, helping him conserve energy on the defensive end. His versatility along with his ability to block shots at the rim make Siakam an essential defender when he's engaged on the defensive end.
Kawhi is the MVP of the Raptors team and there is no denying that. However, for the Raptors to have a great chance to win this series, Siakham has to be aggressive on both ends of the court. The better he plays, the less stress is on Leonard to perform and the more the Raptors become versatile on the offensive and defensive ends. There isn't a ton of chance many are giving the Raptors, but this isn't the first time they have been against the odds and it isn't the first time Siakam has been counted out either.