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Thunder’s Paul George not surprised by Pascal Siakam’s improvement after working out together last summer

Raptors, Pascal Siakam, Thunder, Paul George

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam has placed himself firmly at the front of the line for the NBA’s Most Improved Player honor. But his rise hasn’t been a complete surprise to everyone in the league. Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder worked out with Siakam last summer and had this to say, via Josh Lewenberg of TSN, about Siakam’s successful season:

“I saw how much better he got this summer. I knew it would translate coming into the season.”

Translate it has. Entering Friday, Siakam is averaging 16.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists across 32.1 minutes per game, all while shooting 54.5 percent from the field overall. Those numbers are a dramatic increase from where he was last season: 7.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Last year, he started just five of the 81 games that he appeared in. He has started 70 of his 71 outings this year.

The Raptors selected Siakam with the 27th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft out of New Mexico State, allowing him to start 38 games as a rookie in 2016-17. After a season of starting fewer games last year — while earning a larger role — Siakam has combined his learning curve from the first two years and applied it to help turn Toronto into an Eastern Conference powerhouse.

Each of the past two postseasons has seen Siakam as a seldom used reserve; such won’t be the case next month when he becomes a key asset in Toronto’s chase for a trip to the NBA Finals.