1. Siakam at the 5 with Anunoby and Kawhi rounding out the frontcourt
The main reason I picked the Toronto Raptors to win the NBA Finals before the series was because of their wing versatility and defensively capabilities. We’ve seen this on display with Kawhi Leonard returning to his elite level of on-ball defense and Pascal Siakam doing his part in guarding every position on the floor. One thing we haven’t seen enough is Siakam at the 5.
Among the Siakam-at-the-5 lineups used in the playoffs, none of them averages a minute per game. This is a massive advantage just waiting to be deployed. Siakam is 6’9”, 230 pounds with a 7’3” wingspan. He can guard any big on Golden State, offers switchability when defending the dreaded and underutilized Steph-Draymond pick-and-roll and the offensive upside is ridiculous.
The Raptors defender that really helps this team reach its maximum potential is OG Anunoby, who was active for the first time this postseason in Game 2 after undergoing an appendectomy before the postseason. He didn’t appear in Game 2, but you have to take risks in Finals, and having him on the floor with Siakam at the 5 genuinely gives Toronto lineup options that can give the Warriors problems.
A Lowry-Green-Kawhi-OG-Siakam rotation is strong as one can make a modern defense. They all can hold their on literally any Golden State lineup. Rotate Lowry for Fred VanVleet or Norman Powell and nothing drops off, besides Powell offering more size and athleticism than the other two. The trio of OG-Kawhi-Siakam shared the floor in 27 games, but only for 2.2 minutes per game, which isn’t a strong enough sample size to see how they play together. But this a great opportunity to try it out.
The reinsertion of Boogie into this series could throw some caution into the wind, and Marc Gasol has played really well all postseason, but I’d take my chances with the Warriors’ offense running through Boogie rather than Curry. There’s enough collective size and speed where you could send a double on Boogie in the post and recover and scramble to their respective assignments.
Offensively, Siakam would likely be guarded by Boogie or Draymond, with the other matching up with OG and his 33.2 percent shooting on 3-pointers this season. That number isn’t good, but he’s a straight line driver when attacking closeouts and there’s no reason to not give him a portion of Serge Ibaka’s minutes given how he’s having struggles shooting from deep himself.
Going small would force Golden State to counter by putting Draymond at the 5. This typically favors the Warriors given how Draymond can guard do virtually everything on defense, but this current version of the Warriors lacks the offensive threats at the moment for Draymond to be fully unleashed at the 5. Dray is also used to going against 5s that aren’t quicker and bigger than he is, like Siakam.
It’s a risk to put OG in the rotation at all given how he hasn’t played in six weeks, but their big lineups aren’t game-changers. A Kawhi-OG-Siakam frontcourt has the potential to be, and any lineup with Siakam at the 5 is dynamic enough to risk. Given how flexible this roster is, it’s another way to throw a different wrinkle and keep Golden State guessing.