Pascal Siakam Wins 2019 NBA Most Improved Player over Fox and Russell

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2019

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam brings the ball up court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Sunday, March 3, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

A year ago, few outside of NBA diehards knew Pascal Siakam's name.

One massive star turn later and the Toronto Raptors forward is the NBA's Most Improved Player.

Siakam won the accolade at Monday's NBA Awards, defeating finalists D'Angelo Russell and De'Aaron Fox. He averaged 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game in 2018-19, helping lead Toronto to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

"I don't know who else is even really up for it, who the voting's between, all that stuff. I know that if anybody's done more than this kid, has improved more, has impacted the team more and continued to improve from even geez, 20 games ago," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said in April, per Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press. "He just keeps taking another step forward, there has been no steps back.

"He's certainly deserving. If there's somebody else who is deserving, then sometimes that's the way it works. But he's had an unbelievable season."

Siakam's leaps in every category from 2017-18 to 2018-19 are staggering:

PPG: 7.3 to 16.9

RPG: 4.5 to 6.9

APG: 2.0 to 3.1

Threes Made: 29 to 79

Win Shares: 4.7 to 9.3

Essentially, Siakam went from being a solid bit player off the bench to a borderline foundational player. The Raptors outscored opponents by 11 points per 100 possessions when Siakam was on the floor and were outscored by 2.9 points when he sat.

"I'm definitely not a personal-type guy where I care about personal accolades and stuff, but definitely a team-guy first," he said. "Something like that, in terms of who I am and the person that I've become, and people that know my story and how I came up, that would mean a lot just because that's me. Like, that's literally who I am as a player and as a person."

While it's a regular-season award, Siakam was also vital in the Raptors' run to winning the NBA championship. He averaged 19.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists during the run, including a 26-point, 10-rebound performance in Toronto's clinching Game 6 win over the Golden State Warriors.

Adding the MIP to his mantle is just the icing on top of a storybook campaign.

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