The championship era of the Toronto Raptors is officially over.
Pascal Siakam, a two-time all-star and one of the last remaining ties to Toronto's 2019 NBA championship team, was dealt to the Indiana Pacers in a blockbuster trade Wednesday. The Raptors received guard Bruce Brown, forward Jordan Nwora and three first-round picks from the Pacers in return. Toronto also got guard Kira Lewis from New Orleans, with a second-round pick going from the Pacers to the Pelicans in the deal.
"Pascal is a champion, an integral part of winning teams and an example of what can be achieved with dedication, perseverance, hard work and tenacity," said Raptors vice-chairman and president Masai Ujiri.
"We're lucky to have seen Pascal develop into the man and player that he is today — and we are grateful for everything he has done for our city and for our franchise. We wish him all good things."
Centre Christian Koloko, who has missed all season with respiratory issue, was waived by the Raptors in a corresponding move.
First-year head coach Darko Rajaković said he admired Siakam's professionalism and love of the game.
"Pascal is just a pure basketball junky," said Rajaković. "He is the first one to show up in the gym, the last one to leave. He was always coachable, always professional since Day 1.
"I can only be thankful and grateful for all of his contributions to our team this season."
Though the Raptors have struggled to a 16-25 record, Siakam put together a strong individual season in Toronto, averaging 22.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists. Siakam is in the last year of a four-year, $136.9 million US deal. He will make $37.8 million this season.
"I wish nothing but the best for Siakam," said guard Gary Trent Jr. "It should be a great thing for him. The player that he is, it doesn't matter what organization he's going to, he's a high-level player, a high-level thinker."
Developmental success story
The trade ends one of Toronto's biggest developmental success stories.
Through a stellar work ethic, Siakam went from a little-known prospect and late first round pick to a Raptors great with a resume that includes two all-star nods, two All-NBA selections and a vital role in the team's lone championship.
"He came here as almost a teenager and left quite a legacy behind him," said Rajaković. "I wish him all the best going forward. We're going to stay in touch and I wish him all the best."
It's yet another major move for a Raptors team undergoing changes amid a difficult couple of seasons.
Toronto sent longtime wing OG Anunoby, forward Precious Achiuwa and guard Malachi Flynn to the New York Knicks for Canadian forward RJ Barrett, guard Immanuel Quickley and a second-round pick on Dec. 30.
Brown is averaging 12.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and three assists this season, while Nwora — pronounced WOR'-uh — is averaging 5.2 points per game. Lewis is averaging 2.9 points and 1.2 assists. Brown and Nwora both have championship rings.
"This is a time of change for our team, and we welcome Bruce, Jordan and Kira to the Raptors and to Toronto," said Ujiri. "Bruce is a world champion, and we look forward to his two-way play and added toughness on the court.
"We continue the work of getting better every day, and continue moving forward."
Restocking draft picks
The potential key to the deal for Toronto was the ability to restock their draft picks. At the start of the season the Raptors had no draft picks in this summer's NBA draft. They got Detroit's second-round pick in the deal with the Knicks and as well as Indiana's trio of selections.
With Anunoby and Siakam now playing elsewhere, Chris Boucher is the last tie to Toronto's championship team. The Montreal forward had a limited role on the team that season.
"OG was the first one that definitely hurt me a lot," said Boucher, sitting a few stalls over from Siakam's empty locker. "With all the talks and all that you keep telling yourself that it's probably going to happen.
"I know what Pascal can do. He's going to be really dangerous and his team and is going to excel, whatever team he is on."
Siakam was the subject of trade rumours dating back to last season, with reports this summer that the Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers had interest in acquiring him.
His departure comes after longtime point guard Fred VanVleet left the Raptors via and former head coach Nick Nurse was fired in April, effectively ending Toronto's championship era.
Ujiri told media in April that he wanted to change the Raptors' culture following a 41-41 season when Toronto missed the post-season for the second time in three years.
Siakam averaged a career-high and team-best 24.2 points last season for the Raptors, along with 7.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists over 71 games. He tied Brooklyn and Dallas guard Kyrie Irving for most minutes per game in the NBA at 37.4.
The deal comes two days after Siakam played his 510th game with Toronto, surpassing Chris Bosh for fifth most games in team history.
Rajaković, who replaced Nurse in the off-season, has put the ball in forward Scottie Barnes's hands more this season. The 22-year-old Barnes has flourished, posting career-highs in points (20.2), rebounds (9.1) and assists (5.6).
"He's a great human being and he's somebody who just really deeply cares about basketball and wants to do well in basketball," said Rajaković of Siakam agreeing to the schematic changes. "At the same time, he's very well aware how good of a player he is.
"He knew how he can help this team and even the different style of play he was open to do the different things that we asked of him."