One of the more unique players on the Toronto Raptors at this moment in time is center Precious Achiuwa, who ended up in Canada as one of the crown jewels of the Kyle Lowry swap. Achiuwa was brought to Toronto with the expectation that Nick Nurse could give him the shot in the arm he needs on offense while backing up Khem Birch.
A former top recruit who averaged a double-double during his time at Memphis, Achiuwa was selected 20th overall by the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Draft. While he was very raw on the offensive end, his ability to leap, defend multiple positions, and handle the ball at his size impressed Pat Riley enough to snatch him up.
With Birch having been sidelined for the preseason up until this point, Achiuwa has been tasked with filling the void at the center spot. Results have been mostly positive, even if some areas of his game clearly need some work at this stage in his young career.
Achiuwa has been racking up the steals in this handful of games, a testament to his defensive skills. On offense, he’s been aggressive and able to hoover up rebounds.
One of the issues with this offense over the first set of games has been the lack of a big that can really space the floor. If Achiuwa can develop into a floor spacer, the offense could start truly thriving.
He might even start over Birch if he keeps this up.
The Toronto Raptors must develop Precious Achiuwa on offense.
The Raptors have had success with developing big men into quality shooters. During their respective tenures with Toronto under the Nurse regime, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka connected on 40% and 34% of their 3-point attempts. Either Achiuwa or Birch, who shot 29% for the Raptors last year, needs to hit Ibaka’s percentage before the end of the year.
While Birch is signed to a long-term deal, Achiuwa has more offensive potential. The team can already count on him to run the floor, make plays in the paint, and operate as a ball-handler in transition, but declogging the paint and allowing the likes of Scottie Barnes and OG Anunoby to attack comes with Achiuwa fixing his shot.
The form on his jumper looks good, and he’s shown a willingness to get shots up, but his jumpers and free throws are net negatives right now. Fix that issue and Toronto has a center for the future.
Toronto Raptors big Precious Achiuwa must earn his lofty comparisons.
Nigeria coach Mike Brown compared Achiuwa to Draymond Green earlier this summer, and while the Warriors stud has become a negative on offense lately, the Raptors could use Achiuwa in the same sort of fashion.
At the very least, he’s a more dynamic offensive option than Birch right now, and the minutes early in the season should reflect that.