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NBA power rankings: Pascal Siakam leading charge for Raptors

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Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Pascal Siakam made an astounding leap in 2018-19, rising from a rotational piece to the second-best player on a championship team. The late first-round pick in 2017 didn’t ride Kawhi Leonard’s coattails to the title. He powered Toronto through the regular season as an ultra-efficient wing scorer, then formed a dominant defensive duo as the Raptors survived battles against the Sixers and Bucks en route to the Finals. Siakam was awarded the Most Improved Player award, a worthy honor for the Cameroon native. And at his current pace, Siakam could go back-to-back in 2019-20.

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No player has ever earned multiple Most Improved Player honors, let alone win the award in two consecutive seasons. But Siakam may be the one player to break the mold. He’s averaging 25.6 points per game this season after Sunday’s 130-110 thrashing of the Jazz, finishing the week with a 35-point effort, including 26 points in the first half. Siakam has risen from quality second fiddle to a bonafide top option, and Toronto no longer looks like a second-tier team in the Eastern Conference. The Finals are in play for the Raptors. So is an All-NBA selection for Siakam.

29. Knicks – With Kevin Knox earning a DNP-CD on Nov. 29, let’s take stock of the 20-year-old forward. The numbers aren’t pretty. Of the 73 players to attempt at least 1,000 shots since 2018-19, Knox ranks: last in points, last in field goal percentage, last in assists, last in win shares. Not a pretty quartet. Knox is an alright three-point shooter, but he’s currently trending toward fringe rotational status in the NBA. 

28. Hawks – Atlanta is a mess defensively by nearly any metric. The Hawks allow the third-most threes and the fifth-most offensive rebounds, leading to the league’s No. 29 defensive rating. This is to be expected when Trae Young and Jabari Parker share the floor, and such units are the ones that allow 60 points on 24 shots. James Harden absolutely shredded Atlanta on Saturday night. 

27. Cavs – Not a lot of ball movement in Cleveland. The Warriors are racing toward a top-three pick, but at least they infuse some nice designs despite a depleted roster. The Cavs are more a collection of solo acts than a cohesive band. The Knicks are the only other team to not have a player averaging four assists per game, with Elfrid Payton averaging more assists than Cavs’ leader Darius Garland. Jordan Clarkson’s presence doesn’t help. Collin Sexton is talented, but not a traditional point guard. Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson aren’t quite offensive fulcrums. John Beilein has Cleveland competing, but the personnel isn’t there to succeed.

26. Grizzlies – Ja Morant should be able to fend off the competition for Rookie of the Year if he returns by Christmas. It was a fantastic start for the Murray State product, who has thrived with increased spacing in the NBA. Morant is absolutely electric. An All-Star career is likely on the way given good health, not a guarantee for the acrobatic guard. 


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