SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam has won the NBA's most improved player award.
Siakam, who helped the Raptors win their first NBA championship this month, beat out D'Angelo Russell of the Brooklyn Nets and De'Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings for the honour at the NBA Awards show Monday night. He is the first Raptor to earn the honour.
Siakam averaged 16.9 points per game in his third year in the NBA this past season, up from 7.3 last year.
The native of Cameroon was rewarded with a spot in the starting lineup after coming off the bench most of last year.
"I want to thank the Toronto Raptors for believing in me — a little scrawny kid from Cameroon," said Siakam when he recieved the award.
Siakam also thanked his family, who was in the audience, for their support. He said he gets his work ethic from his mom, who he called "superwoman."
"For the people who know my story, also know how important my dad is and him not being able to be here today," said Siakam, whose father was killed in a car accident in 2014.
"He had this crazy dream ... that this would be possible and me being here," said Siakam. "I'm just blessed to be able to make his dream a reality."
While the awards are given for regular-season performances, Siakam also made a big leap in the playoffs. He average 19 points and 7.1 rebounds in the 2019 playoffs, up from 6.6 and 3.6 last year.
Siakam, 25, was picked 27th overall out of New Mexico State in 2016.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri said the award recognizes the countless hours Pascal spent in the gym working on his game and his contributions to the team.
"We are so proud of Pascal," Ujiri said. "His story is amazing and it shows what hard work and belief in yourself can do. We first met him at Basketball Without Borders in 2012, and seven years later, he is an NBA champion."
The Canadian Press