In the same trade that sent Toronto Raptors franchise icon Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat, Masai Ujiri was able to potentially recoup a starting center for the future in former first-round selection Precious Achiuwa, who the Raptors were reportedly high on in the draft.
Achiuwa has had a miraculous rise throughout the basketball ranks, as he started focusing on the sport after emigrating to the United States from Nigeria at the age of 13. Since then, he’s become a top recruit, first-round pick, and full international who has represented his country at the Olympics.
Oddly enough, Achiuwa may owe some credit for his basketball career to Ujiri and the NBA, as the former’s Giants of Africa program and that latter’s Basketball Without Borders initiative. Reunited with Ujiri after so many years, both parties sound absolutely thrilled about this arrangement.
When Achiuwa expressed his relief that the transaction was finally complete and he was ready to do damage with Toronto, Ujiri responded by saying “you’re mine now.” Achiuwa isn’t going to be an end-of-the-bench player with the Raptors, as Ujiri and Bobby Webster reportedly have big things planned for him.
Precious Achiuwa is ready to star with Masai Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors.
Achiuwa averaged 5.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game on 54% shooting during his rookie season, but that was a byproduct of waiting on the bench behind players like Bam Adebayo. Hopefully, Achiuwa is given more free reign in Toronto’s offense as a backup to someone like Khem Birch.
Achiuwa made his Raptors debut in Summer League, and he looked almost too good to even be there. Only Malachi Flynn had a better scoring average, though Achiuwa supplemented his improved offensive game with solid ball-handling and some thunderous dunks. Ujiri and Nick Nurse are going to have a ton of fun with him.
The Raptors wouldn’t insist on adding Achiuwa in return unless they had big plans for him. Drafted nine picks before Flynn, Achiuwa might have some value as a long-term frontcourt piece, and the Raptors may have stumbled upon this thanks to some seeds that were sown a decade ago by Ujiri and the NBA.
We’ve seen Achiuwa play well when given a chance, and he was instrumental in helping his country take down the United States in basketball in a monumental upset. All he needs is an opportunity, and the man who helped create the program that helped foster Achiuwa’s passion for basketball will be able to help with that in Toronto.