TORONTO — Pascal Siakam could become an NBA all-star for the first time on Thursday, and he couldn't be more honoured.
Siakam has averaged 23.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game this season — all career highs — to become a key part of the Toronto Raptors. At last count, Siakam sat second in fan voting in the Eastern Conference well behind Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and slightly ahead of Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers.
"Oh it would mean everything," said Siakam on Wednesday night after scoring 18 with 15 rebounds in a 107-95 win over Philadelphia. "I think once you get to the NBA and you understand that those are the elite players in the league, it means even more.
"As a young player coming in and knowing my path and how I got here to be in that competition, that's crazy to think about."
The NBA last sent out vote totals on Jan. 16 and closed fan voting on Monday. The official numbers will be released on Thursday.
The player who earns the most fan votes in his conference will serve as a team captain and draft rosters during a live television special on Feb. 6. The 69th NBA all-star game will be in Chicago on Feb. 16.
Siakam's journey to the NBA was unique. The six-foot-nine power forward from Douala, Cameroon, only began playing basketball when he was 17. He played two seasons at New Mexico State before getting drafted 27th overall by Toronto in the 2016 draft.
After starting in the D League with the Raptors 905, Siakam moved on to be a reserve for Toronto. Known for his work ethic, Siakam always thought that he wouldn't just become an NBA starter, but an elite player.
"It's not something that I didn't think was possible, you know what I mean? I've always believed in myself and I've always put the work in to get to not only be an all-star but be an all-star for a long time. That's my goal," said Siakam. "I think about these things and I feel like I have the ability to do it.
"It's on me to go out there every single night and make sure that I'm the best player I can be and continue to work hard and not be complacent and do everything in my power to get out there."
If Siakam is named an all-star starter on Thursday, the Raptors would be the only NBA team to have a player in the starting lineup of every all-star game since 2015. Kyle Lowry started in 2015 and 2016, DeMar DeRozan started in 2017 and 2018, and Kawhi Leonard started in 2019.
Toronto head coach Nick Nurse thinks that if Siakam is named a starter it would be extra special for the Raptors organization.
"The kid that two years ago started the season as our 11th man and he played in the D league the year before that. That's a hell of a rise up, if it happens," said Nurse. "I think again credit to just our organization in general. Picks, scouting, player development, the whole thing. I think all those things kind of work together to make that possible."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22 2020.
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John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press