Pascal Siakam has a chance to add to the Toronto Raptors' already impressive list of accomplishments this season at the third annual NBA Awards show tonight at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif.
Catch the 2019 NBA Awards show live tonight at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT on TSN2, TSN.ca and TSN Direct
Siakam, who is among the nominees for Most Improved Player, is the 2019 NBA Champion Raptors' lone nominee this year. Siakam is believed to have a strong shot at winning the award. Shortly after Siakam was announced as a nominee, TSN Basketball Analyst Jack Armstrong wrote in a column that he thinks the third-year forward is "hands down" the player who should win.
Even though Siakam was a major part of the Raptors' NBA championship run, all of the awards that will be handed out tonight only take into account the performance of the nominees during the regular season.
With that in mind, here's a look at how Siakam stacks up with the other two MIP nominees, guards De'Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings) and D'Angelo Russell (Brooklyn Nets).
2017-18 stats: 7.3 PPG and 4.5 RPG
2018-19 stats: 16.9 PPG and 6.9 RPG
2017-18 stats: 11.6 PPG and 4.4 ASP
2018-19 stats: 17.3 PPG and 7.3 APG
2017-18 stats: 15.5 PPG and 5.2 APG
2018-19 stats: 21.1 PPG and 7.0 APG
Unlike Fox and Russell, who were picked fifth and second, respectively, in their draft years, the Raptors took Siakam with the 27th pick in 2016. Both Fox and Russell, as evidenced by their draft selections, entered the league with considerable expectations, given they played collegiately at well-known schools — Kentucky in the case of Fox and Ohio State in the case of Russell. Siakam, on the other hand, attended the much-less known New Mexico State.
Ahead of the 2016 draft, and frankly even up until this start of the 2018-19 campaign, you’d be hard-pressed to find many people who envisioned Siakam developing into the player he did this season. Count Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri among the many surprised by Siakam's growth. In an article written by ESPN's Jackie MacMullan in May of last year, Ujiri said "When I saw Pascal [Siakam} in Basketball Without Borders [in 2012], I couldn't even tell you if he was an NBA player. That's how incredible his story is.''
Fox is considered to be among the NBA’s best young guards and his Kings had a good season — improving their win total by 12 from the season before — but this season marked the 13th consecutive year that Sacramento failed to qualify for the postseason. It’s tough to see Fox coming away with MIP when his stats aren’t the best in the group and his team was the only one to miss the playoffs.
Russell’s strong campaign was highlighted by him earning his first all-star nod — he was the only player in the group to make one of this year’s teams. However, many question just how drastic of an improvement he has truly made. Russell has averaged double-digit scoring totals in all of his four previous seasons in the NBA and has been a starter since his second year.
Past Raptors awards winners
Former Raptors coach Dwane Casey, last year’s Coach of the Year, currently stands as the only Raptor to win an award in the two previous years of the show’s existence. TSN Raptors broadcast contributor Sam Mitchell is the only other Raptors coach to win the top coaching honour, with Mitchell having received the award in 2007.
Damon Stoudamire, who was the Raptors’ first-ever draft pick (seventh overall), won Rookie of the Year in 1996, as did current free agent Vince Carter with Toronto in 1999.
Former Raptor and current Los Angeles Clipper Lou Williams was named Sixth Man of the Year in 2015.
The rest of the 2019 awards
Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks; Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder; James Harden, Houston Rockets
Defensive Player of the Year: Antetokounmpo, Bucks; George, Thunder; Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Rookie of the Year: Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns; Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks; Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks.
Sixth Man Award: Montrezl Harrell and Williams, Clippers; Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers.
Coach of the Year: Mike Budenholzer, Bucks; Michael Malone, Denver Nuggets; Doc Rivers, Clippers.