Why Precious Achiuwa could be a future Defensive Player of the Year candidate

Amit Mann and Stephen Cagan discuss Precious Achiuwa's ceiling as a rim protector and his versatility on the defensive end. Listen to the full podcast on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed or watch on our Yahoo Sports Canada YouTube channel.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: Can we move on to the intricacies of his defense?

STEPHEN CAGAN: Let's move forward.

AMIT MANN: All right. How many players in the NBA do you estimate can impact the game the way Precious Achiuwa can?

STEPHEN CAGAN: It's a great question. It's difficult to even really put a number on it. Because he is so unique that that blend of the great rim protection along with the ability to switch and hover, even last year, he contested four three pointers a game, which put him in the top quarter of the League even though he was guarding centers over 50% of the time.

So it's like when he was on the perimeter, there was a lot of disruption there. It's akin to, I mean, Giannis is a little strong. I think his body composition is even more alien like if you maybe, if Precious grew five inches. But there is a certain level of kind of a baby Giannis defensively where he can do all of these things that we were talking about. And there's not too many guys that can do that. And that's why I think his defensive ceiling is starting to flirt with that.


STEPHEN CAGAN: All-NBA team and will probably make one or two in his career. I would not be surprised at all.

AMIT MANN: That blocking Kevin Durant in 2021, remember that?


AMIT MANN: When he was on Nigeria. That's where we really saw the explosion from him and how quickly he can cover ground in a small amount of time. And that's so useful when he is a rim protector, a shot deterrent. Because he can stay close to his man and have like the foot speed and the explosion to vault up off of one foot or two feet, which most guys are like one or two feet, that's what they're most comfortable jumping off of, he can do both. Which, again, is another way what makes him very unique.

And if it needs to be like a one handed block, he can do that. It has to be a two handed shot block, he can do that too. And it's a slow recovery. That's what gets me. And then it's like the foot speed on the perimeter and how he's able to provide that cushion for drivers. And then he just closes it off in a heartbeat. It's gone. Yeah.

STEPHEN CAGAN: Yeah, that's absolutely-- that's where because even on the perimeter where you start to lose guys sometimes is they have no real screen navigation ability. And like they can't just shuffle through the muck like a lot of guys that are smaller than them can. And Precious isn't phenomenal at that. But what you're saying is his recovery is so excellent that it doesn't really matter.

You know like you can just sort of maneuver his way through, let screens sort of hit him. And he can just slide with it and then recover fast enough. He's so fast, which he could cover the short area burst, as you mentioned, is so elite. And he's so long that he's able to do that.

And that's one area of his defense where the size does kind of hinder him is in like a low drop. If he's going to try and be your just anchor center, size matters there. That's where it's like if you have a guy who's seven foot tall, his positioning, that just changes angles for everything. You can funnel guys to them. And that's something I don't see Precious doing.

But that's also something the Raptors aren't necessarily doing either. I mean, that's not exactly what their scheme is. And a switchable scheme of five guys who can do everything is much more translatable to the playoffs that we've seen over and over again. So he's a perfect modern defender.

AMIT MANN: Certainly as a rim protector, it's like the surprise element that you want from him as a shot deterrent. Because as you said, Christian Koloko, they're hoping he becomes like that drop coverage guy who is just like an absolute monster in the paint. And he just walls it off, and there's nothing open. But for him, for Precious, you can kind of play with it a little bit.

And sometimes it is like a soft drop. Or maybe you want him at the level, or maybe you just like straight up switch. And the defense doesn't know what is going to be coming at them. And because he's able to be so versatile at the same time, like, normally, you maybe switch a player out on the perimeter. And you're like OK, maybe he'll do OK out here. Maybe he'll be all right. We've got support on the back end. It's OK.

But with Precious, you're like, he's going to be just fine out there. You can get hella aggressive with your entire defense. And you can kind of wall off the paint collectively rather than just relying on like a seven to one, Christian Koloko, hopefully, at some point in the very near future because the Raptors need some kind of player like that. You can rely on him to do that along with the collection of other rangy six, nine wingspany forwards that they have behind him. I wouldn't be surprised if he's like the Raptors best defender next season.

Only because they have so many players who are looking to kind of take that next level offensively. And that alone creates energy, and it takes attention on that end of the court to make sure you're able to provide that kind of like offensive playmaking and scoring. And so Precious, I think, we'll get to this in a second, but I don't think he's going to necessarily be that guy. But OG Anunoby could probably use a little bit of a break. Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Jesus, 37.9 minutes per game, led the League in isolation attempts. Like he could definitely use a little bit of a break, and then you got Fred VanVleet, who's-- he got injured because he was being used too much.

So Precious could be that guy that he comes in, spot minutes, maybe he is closing games, maybe he's not. But maybe you just need it for like one possession. Just like go out there and deny him the ball and just stick on him. He can be that person for the Raptors. And I think they'll probably explore that quite a bit with him.

STEPHEN CAGAN: Yeah, absolutely. I think what you're saying is instructive as far as his ability to take pressure off of all of these guys who are playing 38 minutes a night. And you don't have to stack ballside whenever he's out there. Like you can, not relax, but you don't have to fully commit in every way because he's there.

And he's disrupting things on his own. He's a defensive playmaker. And that's something that'll be really valuable in the long run, that'll buy them some energy towards the second half of the year and in the playoffs that they, frankly, didn't have access to in the last few years because they've just had to do everything. So it's exciting.

AMIT MANN: Yeah, and they're going to be a lot deeper this year too. I would imagine, I mean, the regular season, they are typically a pretty good regular season team. But they can withstand a few injuries. And they couldn't do that in previous years. Last season, specifically, that's when they played their starters like 37 minutes per game. It was like crazy, crazy stuff. And everyone's questioning Nick Nurse. Why are you doing this? But he wouldn't come out and say it, but it's really because I don't trust anyone else. I only trust these guys.

And Precious entered his name to that conversation. Ditto Chris Boucher, who had a monster like second half or so. You got that. You've got Otto Porter Junior right there. Boom. You've got nine players. And that's not even like counting a Khem Birch who is, hopefully, healthy next season. Malachi Flynn, maybe he has a rebound. Maybe he carves out some minutes to Dalano Banton, who knows? But like the Raptors have like a solid nine person rotation. And that's a hell of a start.