The Toronto Raptors might have a concrete plan in filling in the void left by star swingman Kawhi Leonard at the three spot, as head coach Nick Nurse strongly considers moving Pascal Siakam to small forward next season, Jackie McMullan of ESPN reported on Thursday.

The Raptors, still reeling from Kawhi’s decision to leave Toronto for the opportunity of playing with the Clippers in his native Los Angeles, entertains the idea of tweaking their lineup, particularly their starting five next season.

In his one-year stay in Toronto, Leonard played a huge role for the Raptors as he accepted the challenge of being the team’s first offensive option and premier wing defender. His exploits on both ends of the floor enabled the Raptors to rack up 58 wins in the regular-season and come through with a playoff run to remember, winding up with the Larry O’Brien Trophy last June.

In short, Kawhi’s departure left a gaping hole on the Raptors’ starting lineup.

Nurse, though, is planning to fix it by plugging Siakam, a natural power forward, into the small forward spot.

“Nurse, who is suddenly devoid of pressure, has his own decisions to make. He needs to reintegrate OG Anunoby, who missed parts of last season with injuries. He is thinking of moving Pascal Siakam, who should be poised for a breakout season, from power forward to small forward,” McMullan wrote in her piece.

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Coming off a breakout season in which he averaged career-highs in points (16.9 ppg), rebounds, (6.9 rpg) and minutes played (31.9 mpg), the 2018-19 season’s Most Improved Player of the Year is poised to double his production now that Leonard is gone.

Nurse said both Siakam and Fred VanVleet embraced the opportunity of taking more shots next season. Siakam, in particular, will be the main offensive weapon for the Raptors going forward, so it’s only natural for the team to expect a more polished offensive game from him next year.

In their recent NBA show podcast, NBA writers Danny Chau and Justin Verrier of the Ringer discussed Siakam’s competency as a small forward and explained what type of skill set he needs to develop for the 6-foot-10 do-it-all forward to take that next step.

Although Verrier thinks Siakam has the body type to play at small forward, Chau believes the Cameroon-born phenom has to create his own shots on a regular basis in order for him to reach his full potential.

“Pascal Siakam in the playoffs shot 27 percent from three. He shot 37 percent from three in the regular season, and 38 percent from the corners, but you really need him to kind of be a more dynamic shot creator from the distance for him to take that next level and be a three,” Chau opined on the Ringer podcast.

Long and Defensive

The Raptors will be once again a lengthy, defensive-oriented squad next season, more so in their frontline where they have Siakam, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol manning the paint.

Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri added a couple of defensive-minded wings in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson to bring depth and versatility at that position.

Floor spacing will be the biggest concern heading into training camp, knowing the fact that Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson aren’t going to be as efficient three-ball shooters as Leonard was. Nurse will also have to figure out how to win games with their length and defensive acumen, as he no longer has an excellent shot creator in Kawhi.

Of course, the dynamics will change if indeed Siakam morphs into a scoring machine next season. He did show flashes of his potential as a terrific bucket-getter last season, doing most of the damage as an iso-scorer from the top of the key. All he needs now is to further sharpen his handles and improve his three-point clip for him to become a legit go-to-guy the Raptors craves for.

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