What to make of Precious Achiuwa's rollercoaster season
Imman Adan and Asad Alvi discuss areas Precious Achiuwa improved and regressed in the 2022-23 season. Also, how a stable role can help the 23-year-old find consistency. Listen to the full podcast on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed, where we hand out grades to each bench player.
IMMAN ADAN: [LAUGHS]
ASAD ALVI: Well, I was looking at Precious's numbers. And honestly, he improved in a lot of areas. He shot his free throws better this season. He got up to near 70%, or he was at 70%.
He finished better at the rim. He had a lot more dunks. He definitely did better in, like--
IMMAN ADAN: 70.2%.
ASAD ALVI: --the areas where you would expect him. He just could not shoot a 3-- the 3-ball this season. He ended up at 27%, which is the same--
IMMAN ADAN: 26%.
ASAD ALVI: --as last season.
IMMAN ADAN: Mm-hmm.
ASAD ALVI: Yeah, and again, with him, it was always an issue of he needs to get better at his awareness in the game. Like, again, he has less basketball experience than a lot of the other players at his age, just because he came a little bit later to the game. And he hasn't played as much organized ball.
But, like, you can clearly see his athleticism is unreal. You can see the peaks. And then you see the valleys where it's just, like, he doesn't know whether he's switching on defense or not. He doesn't know whether he's supposed to be helping at the rim.
IMMAN ADAN: --entertaining. He keeps us on our toes.
ASAD ALVI: And he's just kind of lost out there at times. And then on offense, you'll just see, like, what is going on? Like, figuring out how to space correctly.
Like, it is really important for Precious Achiuwa, like, if he's long-term going to play beside a Scottie Barnes and a Pascal Siakam, how he plays around them. Like, you have to know where the spots you should be in.
And last season, Thad Young really helped him out. Even Khem Birch really helped him out in, like, figuring out what spots he needed to be in. And the second half of the season, you saw once he kind of figured out where you're supposed to come from, he played a lot better.
IMMAN ADAN: Yeah.
ASAD ALVI: This season, he significantly struggled trying to find where he should be. He was, I think, very confident in his 3-point shot early in the season. And when he saw that it just was not going in, I think that really kind of messed with how he was going to approach the game, where suddenly, he's like, oh, I'm not a 3-point spacer anymore. So now, he catches, he was pumping and then driving on guys. But those drives weren't going anywhere because he was just kind of driving for the sake of, I don't feel confident in my 3-point shot. And it was leading to a lot of awkward situations-- clock awareness, stuff like that. And those are all growth areas.
I'll give him a-- I'll give him a flat C, to be honest. Because I think there were still, like, really good signs from Precious. He improved his free throw shooting, got to the line a bit more this season. I think he finished at the rim a lot better.
And at the end of the day, it was like, once he did kind of find a consistent role, especially-- and regardless of how he was off the bench, any time he did play with the starters, he did play well. Like, when his role was a lot more defined--
IMMAN ADAN: Yeah.
ASAD ALVI: --like, is he a drag on the offense? He definitely still is. But he could find a way to fit in when he was with four other good players.
Near the end of the season, it was pretty rough for him subbing in, when he'd come in for Poeltl, just because they would-- basically, he just wasn't the same level of rim protector this season. And he struggled being in the right spots a lot of the time.
A lot of Precious's flaws are more of the awareness side of things, like knowing how to play basketball side of things, versus his actual talents. Like, he's incredibly talented, incredibly gifted. And when he figures it out, every time it clicks for him in a game, everything looks so easy.
Like, how did he go from the 3-point line to a finger roll at the rim in one swoop? It's like, wow, like, it blows you away. So it's finding more consistency. And I think role definition will definitely help him.
He came in capable of a lot of things, wanting to show off a lot of things. I think early in the season, he was bringing the ball up a lot after rebounding, so his turnovers were up. And the second half of the season, you saw that he wasn't bringing up the ball as often. He wasn't shooting as many 3's. And he was kind of settling into kind of figuring out what he needed to be and what his role needed to be.
And hopefully, in a more-- like, whoever the new coach is, if they have a more consistent defensive philosophy, one that maybe isn't as chaotic and tricky to figure out-- because Nick Nurse's scheme asks a lot of whoever's playing the five.
IMMAN ADAN: Yeah.
ASAD ALVI: Whoever's playing the back line really needs to be on their toes and know the personnel of who's around them, to know, oh, where am I supposed to be? How am I supposed to help? Should I be showing more help or not right now?
So that's difficult for a young player, anyways. Like, I think as much as we give Scottie-- it'll be like, oh, he's not-- like, he'll get blown by at the point of attack, or like, as the low man, he might get lost every so and so. I think Scottie still does a pretty good job of managing a very difficult system. And Precious just struggled with it this year.
I think if we had something a little bit more simplified-- and that's actually something I think it goes across the board, for the entire bench that we talked about. The one part of the season where the bench actually found some success was when they would just come in, and Nick would scrap the defense and say, we're playing zone.
And they would just play zone on defense and be like, all right, on offense, we'll figure something out. But at least we won't give up too much on defense. And that worked for them for a bit until teams started to really, like, just start zoning them back. [LAUGHS] But--
IMMAN ADAN: OK, so here's the thing, here's the thing, here's the thing-- Precious Achiuwa's report card would be the funniest thing ever. Because you know how-- the final grade would be, like, a C, or whatever.
ASAD ALVI: Yeah.
IMMAN ADAN: But like, he'll get into the nitty-gritty, and it'll be like, oh, look, E here, E here. Like, A here, A here or whatever. Like, excellent, or-- and then you're like, oh, Ds. Oh, Fs. It's just, like, all over the place, so that the average just ends up being a C.
Because I think he is incredibly talented and gifted and-- to me, Precious Achiuwa's-- the face of growth isn't linear, right? So any time anyone gets a little frustrated with him, I'm just like, hey, growth isn't linear. Growth isn't linear.
And I completely agree with role definition and how that--
ASAD ALVI: Yeah, forget even season to season. We're talking about game to game, quarter to quarter.
IMMAN ADAN: Possession to possession. [LAUGHS] OK? It's funny that, yeah, someone who has no clock awareness had the ball so often, especially early on in the season. Like, why? [LAUGHS] There's no-- there's no need.
Yeah, OK, so with Precious Achiuwa, definitely, I think role definition matters. And honestly, having Jakob Poeltl come in now, and you have Christian Koloko off the bench, you're going to see a lot of Precious just as a perimeter defender, and letting him go crazy there.
I think this season, the face of the season has been-- or the theme of the season has been overextending guys. And that's just across the board. That's with the starters playing-- leading the league in minutes for the third year in a row, and things like that, where we're talking about a lot of guys being overextended, playing outside of their position.
And I think Precious Achiuwa has proven himself to be a small ball five. And I think you're still going to see small ball five lineups, I'd imagine next season as well. But he also just sort of gets to be a menace on the perimeter if the Raptors do play him alongside-- playing him alongside Jakob, I'm thinking about it right now, the spacing is going to be horrible. Like, the spacing with the Raptors is going to be horrible.
Regardless, whoever the coach is is going to have a lot of fun playing with Precious Achiuwa and figuring out what his role is on this team. Because I do think he kind of-- a lot of these guys are Swiss Army knives. And Precious Achiuwa, in my opinion, is the most fun one because he's my favorite human being playing basketball. Sorry, that's just a little Precious rant. I just wanted to have some fun in this because Precious is great.