The Toronto Raptors‘ All-Star core of Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby (once the starry-eyed youngsters of the 2019 team) are now living their basketball primes. Siakam should be an All-NBA team lock for the second time in his career, VanVleet made his first All-Star team, and Anunoby just posted his best statistical season yet.
Siakam and VanVleet are 27 years old and Anunoby, though we may forget, is only 24. However, it’s safe to assume that Raptors fans have a shrewd sense of who these players are. They are in the early stages of their prime. They are the present.
On the other end of the scale, Toronto has the core of the future in place. This is headlined by superstar 20-year-old and Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes but also consists of young microwave Gary Trent Jr. and the enigmatic Precious Achiuwa.
This wasn’t the case the whole year. Barnes and Trent proved themselves as young stud assets straight out the gate, but the road was windier for Precious. Coming in with big expectations as part of the Kyle Lowry trade, Achiuwa finally fulfilled them later in the season.
Toronto Raptors: Precious Achiuwa was the most improved player
His defense and rebounding were helpful, but as an undersized center without an outside game, suspicions grew that Achiuwa was stuck in that dreaded “tweener” positional area. His versatility appeared to be purely in his physique, as he looked unable to stick inside.
That fear was not without good reason. At 6-8, Precious was smaller than most of the starting centers in the NBA this season. He’d get muscled around by the likes of Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. His lack of size at the center position crippled his ability to finish over the top at the rim, but his lack of a 3-point shot prevented him from playing anything else.
Yes, he was young, but there were moments where Raptors fans had to wonder if the team had wasted the Kyle Lowry trade chip.
Precious Achiuwa had a shocking turnaround.
The turning point came in late February. In a sleepy regular-season game against the Hawks, Precious Achiuwa posted a season-high 21 points and nine rebounds, going 2-3 from three and 8-12 from the field.
Precious would continue to trend upward, averaging 12.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game on efficient shooting percentages during the remainder of the season.
Achiuwa had shown flashes of 3-point range in the preseason, but he reverted back to a more rim-running offensive style during the early part of the regular season. When that changed, the whole Raptors offense opened up for him.