Precious Achiuwa stepped up in the playoffs.
It isn’t just about being able to knock down perimeter shots. Having respect from the defense let Precious pull the opposing center out of the paint. This takes away the other team’s rim protection and allows the Raptors’ primary creators like Siakam and Barnes to attack the rim in single coverage.
This newfound range also lets Precious use his most valuable athletic trait to its full advantage. With the strength of a center and the speed and fluidity of a forward to go along with a 3-point shot, an offensive liability became one of the best young bigs out there.
His hands were the strangest and subtly the most important improvement to Achiuwa’s game. Early-season Achiuwa would blow layups and finishes around the rim. Was it due to him constantly giving up size in the paint? Or perhaps the Raptor’s poor spacing allowed for an easier help defense? Either way, he shot well under 50% at the basket.
That changed halfway through the season. Yes, his improved distance shooting led to easier takes to the rim, but he also just improved as a finisher. He now has more patience and decisiveness under the hoop, a softer touch adjusting around the defense, and a newfound aggressiveness when going in for his signature tomahawk dunks.
The playoffs were a success for Precious Achiuwa.
Don’t get hung up on the two missed free throws at the end of Game 3.
Does it sting to lose in that fashion? Of course, it does. On the whole, that game was a triumph for Achiuwa. He posted 20 massive points on 82% shooting while helping to hold Embiid to 2-5 shooting in the first half.
Achiuwa was on full display that game. Every part of his game was shown, both the positives and the negatives. Did he brick those potentially game-winning free throws? Yes, but you better believe he will be working on his foul shooting all summer.
The most important takeaway from that game and that series is that Achiuwa can already be a high-level contributor in a playoff game. Not next year, not when he’s a few seasons older, but right now. At 22 years old, despite the holes in his game, he’s already a rotation-level player for a playoff team, and he’s only going to get better.