The Toronto Raptors front office and Masai Ujiri reportedly cut off almost all communication with star forward Pascal Siakam this past summer.
Siakam, who is in the final season of his contract, could be a player that is traded by this season’s trade deadline if Toronto truly wants to rebuild its roster. The team already traded away forward O.G. Anunoby to the New York Knicks this season.
“But after their disappointing 2022-23 season ended with an embarrassing play-in loss to Chicago, Ujiri and Toronto’s front office cut off almost all communication with Siakam last summer, leading the seven-year vet to wonder whether he was being punished, according to a source close to the player,” TSN’s Josh Lewenberg wrote. “The lack of contact was especially strange, with Siakam entering the final year of his contract. Typically, players of his caliber don’t get that close to free agency without signing an extension. Ujiri’s very public message to Siakam on Media Day: you’ll have to earn it – the natural implication being that he hadn’t already.”
A two-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA selection, Siakam will become an unrestricted free agent following the 2023-24 season. This season, he’s played well for Toronto, averaging 22.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game while shooting 52.1 percent from the field and 28.8 percent from beyond the arc.
The Raptors seem to be going through a bit of a transition, as they also lost guard Fred VanVleet this past offseason in free agency. He signed with the Houston Rockets.
With the team already moving on from Anunoby and currently sitting in the No. 12 spot in the Eastern Conference, the Raptors may look to move Siakam this season.
Since the team reportedly didn’t involve him in the offseason this past summer, it wouldn’t make sense to keep Siakam long term unless the team plans to build around him as part of its core.
The Raptors may decide to get younger and build around former Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes and recently acquired players like RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley. While Quickley is a restricted free agent this coming offseason, the Raptors will be able to match any offer sheet he signs.
Siakam was a key part of Toronto’s championship in the 2018-19 season, but the Raptors have yet to find that same success since Kawhi Leonard left the franchise.
Ujiri and the Raptors front office may look to start fresh with the assets that it could acquire in a deal for Siakam, who will likely be a coveted asset at the trade deadline.
The 29-year-old forward has averaged at least 21.4 points per game in each of the last five seasons, including the current campaign. There aren’t many players that offer the scoring upside that Siakam does that could be available at this season’s deadline.
It’ll be interesting to see if Toronto tries to move forward with Siakam or ultimately starts a new chapter with Barnes as the franchise’s cornerstone.