With their 113-111 road loss to the Boston Celtics on Saturday night at TD Garden, the Toronto Raptors are now more than halfway through their 2021 NBA preseason schedule: three games down, two to go.
The Raptors are 1-2, including a 123-107 win over the 76ers at Scotiabank Arena on Monday, and a 125-113 loss to those same Philly foes in the City of Brotherly Love on Thursday.
Of course, wins and losses are largely meaningless in the preseason. Games at this time of year are all about the team becoming familiarized with one another, coaches gauging talent, and players auditioning for roster spots.
With a handful of new faces and many players that are still in the developmental stage of their NBA career, no one knew quite what to expect from this latest group of Raptors, so this opening set of games have perhaps carried more intrigue and been more fascinating than your usual preseason tilts.
That’s why it’s no surprise that there are players who have surprised with their performances against the Sixers and in Boston, both positively and in the disappointing sense. For as much as can be gleaned from competition in the first week and a half of October, the play of these three Raptors have given fans reason to be excited.
3 Toronto Raptors that have surprised so far in the preseason.
3. Precious Achiuwa
Achiuwa, one of the crown jewels in the Kyle Lowry trade, arrived in Toronto with a limited NBA track record, having played just over 12 minutes per game in 61 appearances as a rookie with the Miami Heat.
Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri obviously saw promise in the 20th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, which is why the GM made sure Miami included Achiuwa as part of the deal for the former face of the franchise.
So far, Achiuwa is making Ujiri look very smart, as the center is very quickly harnessing that potential. Through three preseason outings, Achiuwa leads the Raptors with 9.3 rebounds per game, including 2.7 on the offensive end, while chipping in with 12 points per game.
He also leads the Raptors with eight steals and has three blocks. Against Philadelphia, Achiuwa showed his strength, keeping 76ers all-star Joel Embiid out of the paint. In Boston he made life difficult for the likes of Jayson Tatum, using his lateral quickness to stick with the Celtics forward.
While his jumper looks solid, Achiuwa’s shot remains a work in progress. After attempting only one three-pointer in 61 games last season, he’s put up six shots from beyond the arc, but has made only one of them.
Even so, Achiuwa’s willingness to step outside demonstrates a focus on expanding his range and becoming a more well-rounded scoring threat.
Precious Achiuwa is showing he should be a starter for the Toronto Raptors.
Achiuwa’s play is a great sign for the Raptors, as they have been missing Khem Borch to start the preseason. They could need someone to fill the middle when they begin their 2021-22 schedule against the Wizards in Toronto.
The 6-8 Achiuwa is showing he could be the man standing at center court for the opening tip of the season, and Toronto should feel confident in his play if he’s forced into action.