The curious case of Precious Achiuwa has been one of the most confusing storylines of the 2021-22 Toronto Raptors season. On one hand, Achiuwa is a supremely talented young big with potential on both ends. On the other, it’s clear that he is an incredibly raw player still learning the game.
Achiuwa is averaging 8.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while moving in between the starting lineup and the bench. Those numbers look impressive by themselves, but they lose a bit of luster when one realizes he is making just above 40% of his shots from the field.
While the Raptors’ lack of quality in the frontcourt was a major anchor weighing on this team’s chances of success, their performance in that area has turned around in recent weeks. Chris Boucher is playing like the stud we remember from Tampa, and Khem Birch is coming back.
Achiuwa is being given a very long leash by this coaching staff in the name of development, but now he has more competition than ever for minutes. Could he be in danger of losing some time in the rotation given all of the big men around him?
Could the Toronto Raptors take time away from Precious Achiuwa?
Boucher is averaging over 14 points and seven rebounds per game in the month of December. While he is still on the trade block, and he could return to the poor performer we saw early in the season, it may be hard to justify taking him out of the rotation if he keeps this up.
Birch hasn’t played in over a month due to both a knee injury and a stint in the league’s health and safety protocols. However, due to his skill on the offensive glass and ability to provide a nice veteran counterpart to someone like Achiuwa, he’s not leaving the rotation either.
Toronto picked up a few 10-day contracts after their COVID-19 outbreak, one of which was former first-round pick DJ Wilson. While he’s only played two games, Wilson may have earned himself a spot on the team for the rest of the season.
If Toronto is a meritocracy, Wilson should get some enhanced playing time at Achiuwa’s expense.
This is not to say that Achiuwa is a bad player. He’s been more efficient on offense in the last few weeks, and his defensive EPM is seventh in the league (tied with names like Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokic) among players who play at least 24 minutes per game.
This is the very definition of a good problem to have. Toronto has four centers all worthy of playing time, and it will be up to Nurse to figure out how to divide those minutes up in a very even fashion.