Raptors’ Pascal Siakam named a starter in his first-ever NBA all-star game

Michael Grange takes a look at the rise of Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam.

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam has been named a starter in his first-ever all-star game.

The 25-year-old has been enjoying a career-year, leading the Raptors in scoring with a 23.5 points-per-game average, while collecting 7.7 rebounds per contest and shooting 45.4 per cent from the field and 36.7 per cent from three-point range.

This all-star selection is the culmination of what has been a meteoric rise for Siakam.

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The Douala, Cameroon native hasn’t been playing the game in an organized way for even a decade yet. He played college basketball at New Mexico State because he was under-recruited and was only taken 27th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft despite being named the WAC Freshman and Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016.

In his rookie season, Siakam averaged only 4.2 points per game, getting into just 55 as he spent a lot of time in Mississauga with Raptors 905 where he won a D-League championship — now named the G League — and was named D-League Finals MVP.

Despite these accolades, his sophomore follow-up wasn’t much to write home about as he averaged just 7.3 points per game, but did appear in 81 contests.

Then last season happened and Siakam not only won an NBA championship with the Raptors, he took a huge step forward, being named the league’s Most Improved Player for regular season averages of 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds on 54.9 per cent shooting and an all-new three-point stroke that had him connecting from deep at a 36.9 per cent rate.

That breakout third year was looking pretty tough to top, but with the departure of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green there were more shots to be had heading into this season and Siakam has taken advantage of the opportunity given to him, becoming Toronto’s No. 1 scoring option this season and, now, becoming an all-star for the first time in his career.

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Siakam is the seventh different Raptor to be selected to the all-star game, joining Vince Carter, Antonio Davis, Chris Bosh, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard.

The Raptors still have two other potential all-stars who could be named now as reserves by the NBA’s coaches in Lowry — who finished fifth among Eastern Conference guards in the overall voting results — and Fred VanVleet.

For Lowry, a selection would mark the sixth time in his career he would’ve been named an all-star. For VanVleet it would be his first.

The all-star reserves will be announced on Jan. 30 with the NBA All-Star Draft taking place on Feb. 6.

Other East players selected as starters include the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will act as one of the all-star team captains, Joel Embiid from the Philadelphia 76ers, Kemba Walker of the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young.

From the Western Conference, leading vote-getter LeBron James from the Los Angeles Lakers will captain a team. Joining James will be his Lakers teammate Anthony Davis, cross-hall rival Kawhi Leonard from the Los Angeles Clippers, leading-scorer James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Luka Doncic from the Dallas Mavericks.

NBA All-Star Weekend takes place from Feb. 14-16 in Chicago.

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