(*3*)Pascal Siakam told reporters on media day last month that his goal was to be a top-five player in the league.

Kyle Lowry and Vince Carter are 1 and 1A, that is now not arguable. But after that?

It is laudable that Pascal Siakam wants to be one of the top five players in the NBA this season it’s not like he’d say he wants to be in the top 30 or 35. And if the Raptors become one of the league’s elite teams this year and Siakam is their best player, he may work himself into MVP chatter.

But that’s months away and depends on the success of his team and perhaps the failing of others. Still, it was a good hook for some early training camp stories and everyone’s thankful for that. And maybe we should take a few steps back and consider Siakam in the broader context of the Raptors. Where does he fit in franchise history?

Top five, for sure, and there could be a legitimate debate on whether he can creep into the top three.

For argument’s sake, and because a career has to span more than one magical season, we are eliminating Kawhi Leonard from the discussion. Not because Leonard wasn’t good; the 2018-19 championship season he put together, particularly the playoff run, was incredible and the best single season a Raptors player has had. But if you’re talking the best of all time, the time has to be more than one season.

That leaves a predictable team for a top-five checklist, one that might generate quite a few chatter within the ultimate days of the pre-season. Kyle Lowry and Vince Carter are 1 and 1A, that is not debatable. Lowry was the best player, Carter was the most important, and which you put first and which is second is a matter of personal choice. I’d probably go Lowry-Carter but would certainly listen to Carter-Lowry arguments.

After that? Siakam, DeMar DeRozan and Chris Bosh are the one logical possible choices however the order is open to discuss and dialogue.

The numbers are the numbers, parse them as you will, but remember they have as much to do with what the team was like in each of those eras.

Siakam has made two all-NBA teams in six years (joining only DeRozan and Carter), won the league’s most improved player award in 2019, played in the 2020 All-Star Game, and the case can be made that he was the second-best player on the team’s championship playoff run.

Those are some impressive resumé points born out of pure hard work for the 27th pick in the 2016 draft.

“I’ve worked with a lot of people and he’s right up there with … the hardest workers I’ve ever been a part of and that’s a credit to him and who he is as a person and to his family,” Raptors assistant trainer Rico Hines stated throughout coaching camp. “He has an infectious personality, he wants to be great. He wants to squeeze every part of ability that he has.”

DeRozan was once the center and soul of a few very doubtful groups however his willingness to stay it out, to combat thru tough occasions with a steadfast dedication to the franchise and the town would put him 3rd on a private checklist.

Bosh was a great player on so-so teams, helped end a half-decade-long playoff drought and returned some legitimacy to the franchise. But he really became a Hall of Fame talent during his championship seasons with the Miami Heat and that might drop him down a notch on the list of best Raptors.

The 28-year-old Siakam, in just six seasons, two of which were shortened and interrupted by a global pandemic, has lifted himself to exalted status. It’s to his credit that he’s worked himself into this conversation at a relatively early point in his career, when it all looked like it was going off the rails two years ago.

More than every other Raptor — greater than every other professional athlete in some ways — Siakam had a difficult time coping with the pandemic when it hit in 2020. He was once nowhere close to himself at the court docket; there are high-ranking group officers satisfied the Raptors would have repeated as NBA champions if Siakam had even been moderate. He was once castigated by means of fanatics and it weighed closely on him, however there’s no query he’s recovered. Last 12 months was once as just right as any in his profession.

“It’s the wherewithal to stand in there and deal with the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows, he looks like he’s having fun again, back at peace and just playing at that all-NBA-calibre level,” Fred VanVleet stated. “Now we just got to get him the top-five player in the league. That’s what he wants and we’ve got to help him do that.”

Whether Siakam reaches that level this season will be an interesting narrative to follow until April. But know that Siakam has already put himself on another top-five list.


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