Courtesy of Flickr

Pascal Siakam, a native of Cameroon, did not start playing organized basketball until 2011. He found his way on the basketball court for the first time at Luc Mbah a Moute’s camp in Cameroon. Despite not having much basketball experience, his effort and energy on the court stood out to observers and the media alike, most notably Toronto Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri.

After moving to the United States at age 16, Siakam attended God’s Academy in Texas before being recruited by New Mexico State (NMS). He played a solid two seasons at NMS where he was named the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

In 2016, he declared for the NBA draft where he was selected 27th overall by the Toronto Raptors. His first season in the NBA was nothing special because Siakam only averaged 4.2 points per game and 3.4 rebounds per game during his rookie season. While he did see a slight improvement during his sophomore campaign, he still was considered a role player with a limited ceiling.

However, during this 2018-2019 NBA season, Pascal Siakam has emerged on the scene as one of the league’s breakout players. Currently, he is averaging 16.1 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game and 2.8 assists per game while shooting a career-high 55 percent from the field. His versatility on the court makes the Raptors a dangerous team because of his ability to play multiple positions. His improvement on the court reminds me of a bit of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s jump from a skinny Greek teenager to an MVP candidate and captain of the All Star game. While it is certainly far-fetched to say he will reach the heights that Giannis has, it is certainly plausible for him to be an All-Star level player in the future.

Other candidates in the running for the award include De’Aaron Fox, D’Angelo Russell and Domantas Sabonis. Fox certainly has a case for the award as he is posting career-high numbers in points and assists, but the award is seldomly given to second-year players. D’Angelo Russell has been stellar this season, earning his first All-Star nod but his improvement this season is in large part due to being healthy. Sabonis is more suited for the NBA’s Sixth Man Award rather than the Most Improved Player because most of his production has come off the bench.

The Raptors can certainly make a finals run this season, having traded for Kawhi Leonard and former All-Star Marc Gasol. The Raptors also signed Jeremy Lin after he cleared waivers at the trade deadline. With Kyle Lowry at the guard spot and the new pieces surrounding him, along with the emerging Siakam, the Raptors will look to be crowned the new kings of the east and Pascal Siakam should soon have some new hardware of his own to add to his trophy case.