For the second season in a row, the Toronto Raptors appear to have some questions about who they play the center position. Long gone are the disappointments that were Alex Len and Aron Baynes, as their presence on the roster has been replaced by veteran Canadian center Khem Birch and second-year big Precious Achiuwa.
The Raptors are 7-6 after a close affair against the Philadelphia 76ers. With Birch missing the game due to a knee injury, Achiuwa struggled once again on offense due to his 1-10 shooting performance. Achiuwa’s defense is hurting the team and now he’s not on the floor in clutch moments.
The hype about the Raptors’ roster’s length and athleticism can occasionally overshadow the fact that they are hampered by their lack of height. The Raptors did outrebound Philadelphia, Thursday night, but gave up nine offensive rebounds. Achiuwa managed to procure nine rebounds out of the Raptors’ 47.
The problem isn’t that Achiuwa is a bad player, but he might not be ready for full-time duties. The downward has continued with Achiuwa after a hot start, as he has some flaws that need work.
Raptors center Precious Achiuwa is proving he needs more polishing.
Achiuwa is getting double the minutes he had in Miami with 23.7 minutes per game, and he leads the team in rebounds at 8.7. As a team, the Raptors are the third-worst in the Association at securing defensive rebounds at 32.8 per game (they added 31 Thursday night).
In stark contrast, the Raptors are near the top of the league in offensive rebounds. A stronger showing in regards to defensive rebounds would unlock extra easy fastbreak and transitional opportunities.
While Achiuwa was expected to take on an increased role on both sides without Khem Birch, the early returns on his performances haven’t been overly encouraging.
For the moment, the best shot blocker on the team is Pascal Siakam, and he has only played in two games, averaging one block per contest. Achiuwa is averaging 0.8 per game. Combine this with the fact that Chris Boucher had a slow start to the season and it has helped the Raptors fail to intimidate opposing scorers around their basket.
Achiuwa was billed as yet another positionless defender to add to the pile, and while he has certainly shown flashes, he’s still been largely unable to make good on that promise. His rim protection has been suspect.
The Raptors need to make moves to correct these flaws. The Raptors are already a tough defense holding opponents to a meager 102.5 points per game, and they could be more elite if opponents were not targeting Achiuwa on that end of the floor.
Any combination of Goran Dragic, Malachi Flynn, or Boucher could be moved for a true rebounding, defensive big in a trade. In addition, Achiuwa might need to be dropped from the rotation for the time being. It’s not a negative. The Raptors organization has done well with their G-League affiliate developing players like Fred VanVleet, Boucher, and Siakam.
The talent Achiuwa possesses is evident to even the most casual observer but he just is not putting it all together right now.