Toronto Raptors: 3 sets of expectations for 3 young players in 2021

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 15: Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 15: Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images) /
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Precious Achiuwa, Toronto Raptors
MIAMI, FLORIDA – JANUARY 27: Precious Achiuwa #5 of the Miami Heat (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

2. Precious Achiuwa could be the answer at center.

This off-season, Achiuwa arrived in Toronto with Goran Dragic because of a sign and trade that sent Lowry to Miami. After a season in which Toronto struggled with its frontcourt play, Achiuwa could be a gem waiting to shine in Canada.

He is an undersized six-foot-eight talent who was buried on the bench in Miami behind star Bam Adebayo. He has a real chance to play significant minutes in Toronto.

Toronto averaged 49.3 rebounds per game in 2021, which was third-worst in the Association. Small ball’s philosophy requires catching the opposition in transition before their defense sets. Hence, rebounding is a requirement to turn an aggressive defense into a successful offense.

The Toronto Raptors’ frontcourt is in good hands with Birch and Achiuwa.

An entire season of Birch backed up by Achiuwa should be better for the Raptors than Aron Baynes was in 2021. Head coach Nick Nurse is familiar and comfortable with Birch as both are members of Team Canada, but Achiuwa could outplay his frontcourt teammate.

Achiuwa has spent time in the Giants of Africa Program run by Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri, and it’s unlikely he was acquired to ride the pine.

In a 92-76 victory over Houston during Summer League play, Achiuwa scored 9 points, grabbed five rebounds, and made two steals.

While the competition isn’t quite NBA regular season level, Achiuwa showcased his skills in a positive light and could dramatically up his minutes from 12.1 and 5.0 points per game in his rookie season to around 20 minutes and just under 10 points per game with the Raptors.