Grading Pascal Siakam’s early returns with Pacers: Analyzing forward’s fit and potential with Tyrese Haliburton

Pascal Siakam is starting to feel at home in Indianapolis and his new situation is suiting him well.

After losing his first three games in a Pacers uniform, Siakam helped his new team get in the win column in a major way, turning in the sixth triple-double of his career to lead Indiana to the first of three consecutive wins. And just over a week into his Pacers tenure, Siakam took to Instagram to say “I could get used to this,” a sentiment Indiana fans are sure to be echoing.

While the partnership between Siakam and the Pacers is only just beginning, we’ve seen enough to check in on his progress in the blue and gold.

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Grading Pascal Siakam’s early returns with Pacers

Before digging too deep into the early returns, it’s important to note that Siakam was brought to Indiana to team up with All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton. After returning from a hamstring injury to play alongside Siakam in his Pacers debut, Haliburton went back to the inactive list for another five games.

The five-game absence is small in the grand scheme but massive within the scope of a six-game sample size.

Through six games as a Pacer, Siakam is averaging 21.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists while shooting 57.6 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from 3-point range. Mostly all of it has come without the league’s assists leader to set him up.

For perspective, five of Siakam’s nine field goals in his Pacers debut were assisted by Haliburton. But the numbers in Haliburton’s absence show exactly why the Pacers made a move to acquire Siakam — he can create for himself and others.

“The 6-9 playmaking power forwards in this league are at an all-time premium if you can get one of them,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said in reaction to the trade.

“Pascal is a guy with a lot of diverse skill on both ends of the floor — rebounds the ball, can make plays — so we think he’s, obviously, a good match with Tyrese and a good fit on our team.”

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Siakam’s tenure with the Pacers began at a disadvantage as the trade became official while the team was on a Western Conference road trip. Before debuting with the team, Siakam traveled from Toronto to Indianapolis, then headed to Portland to take the floor with no real practice time to get acclimated with his new teammates.

That he found ways to contribute says everything you need to know about Siakam’s standing as a player.

Carlisle’s assessment of what will be expected from Siakam gives a good scale to grade his contributions thus far. Again, it’s a small sample size, but Siakam is rebounding and shooting better than he did with Toronto this season. Defensively, he gives Indiana more flexibility.

Much has been made of the Pacers’ defensive woes this season — they ranked 27th in defensive rating before the trade — but as Pacers writer Caitlin Cooper pointed out, Siakam’s versatility plugs a number of holes on that end of the floor. Indiana can thank Siakam’s role in Toronto’s small-ball lineups for his comfort playing defense at the center position.

We’ll learn more about Siakam’s chemistry with Haliburton in due time, but the one-game sample size suggests that the two are set to enjoy a fruitful pairing.

As the Pacers look to return to the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2020, Siakam’s role as a secondary playmaker gives Carlisle flexibility with his Iineups, which, in turn, is a major bonus for Indiana’s depth.

When Haliburton heads to the bench, Siakam can be the main creator in reserve-heavy lineups, so opposing defenses will get no breaks. Siakam’s scoring and playmaking means he can hurt teams in multiple ways, and Indiana has pieces that will thrive off of his strengths.

It’s early, but everything we’ve seen from Siakam in a Pacers uniform suggests that things will only get better with time. There’s room for improvement, yes, but it’s mostly the growth — and growing pains — that will come with Haliburton’s full return to the lineup.

Grade: B+

Pascal Siakam Pacers stats

  • 21.3 points per game
  • 7.7 rebounds per game
  • 5.7 assists per game
  • 0.8 steals per game
  • 1.7 turnovers per game
  • 57.6 percent field goal shooting
  • 38.5 percent 3-point shooting
  • 65.4 percent free throw shooting

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