Raptors 2022-23 season preview: Sixth Man Precious Achiuwa

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 26: Precious Achiuwa #5 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 26: Precious Achiuwa #5 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /

Toronto Raptors fans have a right to be frustrated with how the team has been covered in the last few months. The Raptors are a strong and entertaining team that deserves more recognition. However, sometimes flying under the radar can work to their advantage.

There’s no hiding Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, but the Raptors are also hosting one of the best-kept secrets in the Eastern Conference as they prepare for the 2022-23 season. His name is Precious Achiuwa.

Achiuwa’s improvement on the court was as drastic as it was sudden. His season was a tale of two halves on the offensive end, opening up as an inefficient rim runner averaging around seven points per game with a rough 42% success rate from the field and 30% from 3-point range.

Not only was he missing shots, but he also lacked a tactical identity. He had no moves, no reliable jump shot, and he couldn’t go body-to-body with the other team’s big man due to his lack of amazing height and post skill. Everything changed once the calendar flipped to February.

Toronto Raptors 2022 season preview: Precious Achiuwa has improved.

It almost happened overnight. Suddenly, something clicked in Achiuwa’s head, and he was a much more effective scorer. Shooting 3-pointers with confidence and using his speed to attack the rim on the drive rather than trying to muscle people from a standing position in the paint, Precious was in a groove.

After the All-Star break, Achiuwa’s numbers swelled to 12.2 points per game, 46% shooting from the floor, and 37% from beyond the arc. Most of this was being done off the bench. With the Raptors’ frontcourt core of OG Anunoby, Barnes, and Pascal Siakam leading the charge, Achiuwa’s abilities helped give the starters some rest.

Remember how effective Achiuwa was in the Philadelphia playoff series last spring? Yes, he missed the free throws that could have won Game 3, but he showed real promise, and he did it on basketball’s biggest stage.

What is Precious Achiuwa in 2022-23?

The Raptors’ recent scrimmage in Victoria saw the starters square off against the backups in a full five-on-five. The starting lineup was no surprise, but it was interesting to see how Nick Nurse chose to showcase his bench. Malachi Flynn and Dalano Banton made up the backcourt, with Achiuwa slotting in at forward.

Nurse’s comfort in having Achiuwa play forward rather than center stood out. It’s well documented that both Nurse and Masai Ujiri champion the concept of “positionless” basketball, but Achiuwa’s placement has less to do with his position and more with his role.

In order to play forward next to a non-shooting rim protector like Christian Koloko, Nurse must have absolute faith in Achiuwa’s evolving offensive abilities. The Raptors’ depth will be predicated on the bench’s ability to pile up points.

We already know they’ll be decent defensively, but the key to making it all work is more firepower on the other side of the ball. With some dominance in the scrimmage and solid play in the preseason opener against Utah, Achiuwa is well on his way to stardom.

Achiuwa has spent the last eight months taking huge strides in his development. This season will only solidify his place as a shining up-and-comer and tell us how far he can climb.

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