There's some light at the end of the Raptors' Siakam/Barnes efficiency question tunnel

Two highest scoring Raptors are showing signs of improved chemistry

Get the latest from Mike Ganter straight to your inbox

Article content

Sixteen games into the season, the Raptors are about where most expected them to be.

Advertisement 2

Article content

At 8-8 they sit 10th in the conference, not totally in the playoffs, but not totally out either with a chance to book their ticket in with a good showing in the Play-In tournament.

Article content

But as much as Masai Ujiri or Darko Rajakovic or even Scottie Barnes want you to believe, this year isn’t really about winning.

The goal is finding a path forward where winning, and winning big enough to be a legitimate championship contender, is achievable.

So far that path remains unclear, but one of the biggest obstacles to clarity is showing signs of abating.

That would be the likelihood that Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes on the floor together will ever be an efficient and productive pairing.

The two operate in much the same space and score the ball in a similar manner, but head coach Rajakovic has seen proof that the two men can make it work together.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

It came Wednesday night in Indianapolis when the Raptors bested the white-hot Pacers at their own up tempo offensive game, eking out a 132-131 win.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

The day began with the Raptors expecting to have a full roster, but about midday the team revealed Precious Achiuwa was dealing with some knee soreness and was doubtful. When that doubtful turned into Achiuwa being out the Raptors were forced to change things up.

Those changes led to Barnes and Siakam running more actions together than the team had run all year. Rajakovic liked what he saw.

“It was kind of out of necessity because Precious did not play that game,” Rajakovic said. “And we learned a lot. Those two guys actually in pick-and-roll actions, DHO (dribble hand off) actions, that they can be very effective. And both of them, they were looking for opportunities for themselves and for the team, being aggressive. I think there is a lot to build on that.

Advertisement 4

Article content

“And today we paired up those two guys for the workouts as well so they can work more on that chemistry,” Rajakovic said of Saturday’s practice in advance of the game Sunday in Cleveland (7:30 p.m.).

“So, I think when you have two players that size, similar characteristics, they can really complement each other and they are doing a great job of that.”

Through 16 games Barnes and Siakam, who obviously both start for the Raptors, have spent the fifth most minutes on the floor together of any pairing on the roster. Barnes to this point in the year has been coming out about the midway part of the first quarter with Gary Trent Jr. normally starting the parade of reserves onto the floor. Barnes checks back in late in the quarter as Siakam is leaving which has acted as a means of keeping the two out of each other’s way for a good chunk of the game so far this season.

Advertisement 5

Article content

Recommended from Editorial

But as Rajakovic was hinting Saturday, that may no longer be necessary or even preferrable.

“… They are similar but at the same time they’re different,” Rajakovic said. “I think Scottie is stronger and he is more dynamic as a roller. Pascal is looking more for opportunities to post up and take advantage there. But it’s interesting to see how this chemistry is continuing to develop and just hearing those two guys, ‘When I do this, you can do that,’ learning each other in those situations as well.”

Siakam, for his part, isn’t prepared to say the two have everything figured out. He considers his work alongside Barnes a work in progress though he is seeing progress not just for he and Barnes but from the entire roster.

Advertisement 6

Article content

The feeling all season has been that management is watching this particular tandem closely to see if there is a way forward with two alpha players who operate in similar space and in a similar manner.

It’s no secret that Siakam becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season. For that reason his value on the trade market might not be higher than at the mid-season trade deadline.

If Ujiri and his front office team determine the Barnes and Siakam tandem can’t work as an efficient duo within the starting five, would Ujiri put aside his dislike for dealing at the trade deadline and move Siakam then?

Continued progress between Siakam and Barnes would presumably make that much less likely, but that determination is a ways off yet.

[email protected]

Article content