Pascal Siakam is a certified max player. The 25-year-old forward and reigning Most Improved Player, who scored 32 points on 14-for-17 shooting in Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals, landed a four-year maximum contract extension worth $130M with the Toronto Raptors on Saturday. 

This time last year, Siakam was fighting for a spot in the Raptors' starting lineup, coming off a sophomore season in which he had averaged 7.3 points and 4.5 rebounds in a modest 20.7 minutes. In three days, he will receive his championship ring and begin a season in which he is expected to make his first All-Star team. There is now even more pressure on him, but, Toronto coach Nick Nurse has been impressed by his maturity. 

"He kind of doesn't really seem surprised that he may be the go-to guy," Nurse said on Friday before the Raptors' 123-107 win over the Brooklyn Nets. "He doesn't seem fazed by it."

Here are three thoughts on the deal:

1. This reflects a quiet belief in Siakam and the group Kawhi left behind 

It would have been defensible for Toronto to make Siakam prove it. He had several superb playoff moments beyond the Finals opener -- Game 3 against Orlando, Game 1 against Philadelphia and the Finals clincher in Oakland come to mind -- but there were also times in which he looked unsure of himself. The Bucks and Sixers, in particular, found success putting a center on him and giving him space. The absence of Kawhi Leonard means Siakam will have an opportunity to expand his game again as a playmaker, but it also means he will face more defensive attention.

That the Raptors decided not to wait and see how Siakam handled all this is a reflection of their belief in both him and their other returning players. There is a sense of quiet confidence around them, as well as the familiar feeling that they've been written off. Sure, Milwaukee and Philadelphia have more star power, and the Nets and Heat can celebrate their high-profile signings, but Toronto knows the style of basketball it needs to play to win a whole lot of games, and that style predates Leonard's arrival. Siakam's role is bigger now, and the rotation is up in the air -- the starting lineup will be fluid and none of the newcomers have earned the coaching staff's trust -- but the Raptors will play the way they did in the 22 games Leonard missed last season, which was the same way their dominant second unit played the previous year. The ball will zip around the court, 3s will be launched without hesitation and the pace will be fast and furious, ideally buoyed by an aggressive and intelligent defense that forces turnovers. 

2. For Siakam, another milestone in an incredible story

Siakam was almost 18 when he started playing organized basketball, and Toronto drafted him out of New Mexico State as an energy guy. When I first wrote a feature about him, he had flashed some point-forward skills and was shooting more than 300 3s on off-days. When I profiled him last season, he said he is "obsessed with development" and is constantly trying to test his limits. At Barclays Center on Saturday, Nurse said the famously fast Siakam is trying to change things up. 

"He's really working on some different tempo," Nurse said. "Where he's just kind of maybe looking you in the eye and shaking you a little bit and vaulting up."

Siakam will still be a menace in the open floor, and he will still fool defenders with his quick spin move on the block. The mere fact that he is a max player is an amazing milestone, but he wants to keep improving, just like he did after winning WAC Player of the Year, being drafted No. 26, winning G League Finals MVP, becoming a starter and becoming an NBA champion. Becoming a more dangerous perimeter player in the halfcourt seems like his next step. 

3. For the Raptors, some certainty about the future

This is more than just a good-faith gesture from Toronto. By getting this done now, it not only sends a message that the Raptors take care of their players but it also eliminates any uncertainty about Siakam's restricted free agency. If they were reasonably sure that Siakam was going to command a max deal next summer, then the only real question would be about contract structure. They got him on a standard four-year deal without options, which seems ideal.

Now that Siakam and Kyle Lowry have extensions, the next big date for the Raptors is the Feb. 7 trade deadline. If you've read this far you probably already know that Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet will be unrestricted free agents, and that Lowry and the two veteran centers have been subjects of trade rumors since the day Leonard left. 

The real turning point, though, is the summer of 2021, which could resemble this past offseason in terms of star movement. That is when Lowry comes off the books, and it is when Masai Ujiri's front office could strike big. Toronto is betting that Siakam's continued ascendance in between now and then will help to make it an attractive destination, and that the 2020 cap space it has sacrificed (because of Siakam's low cap hold) won't matter in the big picture.