Before Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan was rocking the United Center, he wore a different shade of red and black. DeRozan spent the first nine seasons of his NBA career North of the border with the Toronto Raptors.
Two of those seasons were spent alongside Raptors All-Star Pascal Siakam.
Siakam has gone from a late first-round pick taken 26th-overall a two-time All-NBA selection and NBA champion.
During a recent interview, DeRozan shed some light on his former teammate’s true talent level something that, despite the accolades, can fly under the radar given the team he plays for. It is a struggle DeRozan knows all too well having experienced it not only in Toronto but also in his time spent with the San Antonio Spurs saying he felt “irrelevant” despite praising Gregg Popovic.
DeRozan Raves About Siakam
“He’s one of the best players in this league,” DeRozan said of Siakam after the Bulls and Raptors met this preseason. “That’s evident, I think. As players, we more so look for respect from our peers before we look towards the media…But people in the league know that when it comes to Pascal, he’s definitely one of the top players in this league.” (h/t Oren Weisfeld/Yahoo! Sports)
Siakam fell just shy of his career-high averaging 22.8 points last season. But he set new highs with 8.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.3 steals showcasing his versatility as a modern big. He was one of five players to average at least 22 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists.
The others were Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, LeBron James, and Nikola Jokic.
A power forward by trade, Siakam spent more than a third of his minutes at center for Toronto last season, per Basketball-Reference, the most of his career.
Siakam has posted a defensive rating above the 60% percentile in four of the last five seasons, per Cleaning The Glass. He also posted the best efficiency differential among all of the Raptors’ main rotation players.
So, is Siakam a “superstar” in DeRozan’s estimation?
“I mean, what’s the measurements of a superstar,” DeRozan asked before later saying, “for me, the passion that he carries himself with, and how hard he worked to get where he is now if he stays on that trajectory, he’s gonna be fine.”
DeRozan’s fondness for Siakam should not go over the heads of the Bulls’ decision-makers heading into a critical season.
Bulls Compelled to Make Drastic Changes
The Bulls enter the season with a wider range of potential outcomes than one might expect given they sat atop the East for much of last season. Their second-half slide and Lonzo Ball’s continued issues leave plenty of room for skepticism.
There have been calls for them to at least consider making drastic changes including but not limited to trading DeRozan.
At the same time, Siakam is nearing an impasse with the Raptors as he has just two years left on his four-year, $137 million contract and the two sides are unlikely to reach common ground on an extension, per Eric Koreen of The Athletic.
But it does create the opportunity for a scenario in which Siakam is available as the Raptors have players who could fill his roles by committee. And the Bulls have a few pieces they could offer to bring in what could be the final piece to a core that still features DeRozan alongside Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.
The question is, as always, would it be enough to satisfy the other team?
Bulls Continuity Has Expiration Date
Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arutras Karnisovas is banking on better health and internal development. But he is already dealing with a setback in that regard as Williams has been relegated to a bench role, though he has thrived in similar situations.
White has also seen his development stagnate since entering the league as health and inconsistency have played both factored in.
Ball’s injury is the biggest question mark.
There is optimism that he will be able to make a full return to health following this latest procedure. And the Bulls are taking a patient approach to his return so it would have to be quite the deal to make him available even in his current state. Especially after he proved so vital to what they wanted to do last season.
But, with the 32-year-old DeRozan having just two years left on his deal and Vucevic – who turns 32 on October 24 – heading into the final year of his deal, tough decisions will have to be made one way or another.
It might not reach this level since it would presumably take a lot for the Raptors to get to the point where they are willing to part with Siakam.
Still, he would be a great option and fit if he ever became available.