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Is Precious Achiuwa the Raptors' center of the future?

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The Toronto Raptors have seemingly committed to small ball, meaning they need a versatile forward who can guard on the perimeter, compete against bigger centers, hit threes and run in transition. Precious Achiuwa is aiming to be that guy. Imman Adan and Giancarlo Navas discuss Achiuwa's growth in his sophomore season and what he should add to his game during the offseason. Listen to the full episode on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed or watch on our YouTube.

Video Transcript

- Oh, Precious Achiuwa, I'm shaking in my seat.

IMMAN ADAN: What have you seen from him this year?

GIANCARLO NAVAS: Finishing, not great, fifth, sixth man at the rim. The three point percentage is good, and I think that any time you got a big man who can just-- I mean, I think, as a roller, he'll get better. His size, he's 6' 9", but Bam's 6' 9".

Bam plays a little stronger than he does. Precious just feel smaller than a guy, like Bam, who-- you know, that was a weird thing about Miami. They just drafted a dude who was the same size and who played center, and it's like, well, what's the plan here, you know? So kind of--

IMMAN ADAN: That's what Masai has been doing for years now.

GIANCARLO NAVAS: I guess the thing was like, he'll shoot well enough that we can play them together, which I guess he's getting there, right? So he's improving, so--

- The denial by Achiuwa.

GIANCARLO NAVAS: Interestingly enough, his EPM, his defensive estimate plus minus courtesy of dunks and threes who do a fantastic job is the 94 percentile. It's very, very good. His offensive estimated plus minus is really bad. It's the 29th percentile, so that part's interesting.

- --to make Achiuwa step through move, in with a left hand. He has shown fearlessness.

IMMAN ADAN: Watching him go at Embiid was a lot of fun, especially because, like, he had the ball, like the poise and the control, and granted, the clips that are circulating or when a period of time, where Embiid was letting anyone go at him and was just an absolute pylon on the other end. But the poise and the control-- and he did that. He went straight to the basket and finished over Embiid multiple times. This is the guy who couldn't finish over air multiple times, so--


IMMAN ADAN: Yeah, clearly, so just seeing his growth, I think, has been-- I don't know. I think it's just been my favorite part of it, and as someone from the outside, have you been able to watch just how quickly he's grown from game to game? Obviously, not watching 82 games of Raptors basketball, but are you seeing that growth when you do check into this team?

GIANCARLO NAVAS: So I've probably watched, like, 50 games, you know? I keep up.

IMMAN ADAN: You do, you do. I will say, you watch more than a lot of people.

GIANCARLO NAVAS: I love this. I love them. I fell in love with them. I've talked about this before, but, like, Kyle really reinvigorated my love for the sport, you know? Just the talk out of Raptors Twitter, you guys really changed your tune quick.

At first, it was like, you guys were talking yourself into Precious, and it's like, we've all had the friend that is dating somebody, and they're like, do you like them? It's like, you know, they cook for me sometimes. They do nice things, and they're kind of like, yeah, you know, they're not so bad. And then, like, eventually, they start liking them, you know?

It was kind of one of those, and it at first was a cope. And then it became a, oh wait, he's kind of nice, and I think to the Embiid thing, his first game, I think, where he had a really, like, eye opening game in Miami was, I think, it was a game, where everybody had COVID. And it was just, like, he, and Tyler Herro, and like every G League bozo off the Miami streets. And he really went at Embiid every time, and he was clearly undersized. And it was, like, a lot of old man pump fakes.

You know what I mean? He gets too deep under the basket, like use 50 pump fakes. He tried to get Embiid to bite. But to see the development from something like that to, like, really going at him fearlessly, a little more efficient, I think the other stuff will kind of come together for him. But I think it's been impressive, and I think, if you're Toronto, he's the kind of guy you want who is just a really versatile switch defender who, I think, is just growing into his role.

I think the season he had in-- listen, I don't think anybody, it was easy to be a rookie during a COVID season and to have your second year in the league during a second COVID season. I think that's just really unfair, especially the first year in Miami, where there were, like, legitimate title aspirations. Because you were coming out for Finals appearance, and that season just went sideways from the start. And everybody was hurt, and everybody got COVID.

It was just a bad year, and I don't think that was a good environment for him. And then you kind of go to Toronto, and I know that it was kind of just tough there too. I mean, I think we started off pretty not great. I think him kind of becoming a reliable person with hands-- you know what I mean? Like it's not since Serge did we have, like, a guy who could catch a ball off a roll.

IMMAN ADAN: It was a tough-- it was a tough little while.

- Here's Achiuwa quickly into the frontcourt, and a transition 3 from Precious!

IMMAN ADAN: What do you think he sort of projects as knowing it really could be anything? What do you see?

GIANCARLO NAVAS: I think a lot of that depends on how the finishing goes from here. Because, I think, if he can finish at an above average rate and keep the shooting around what you did this year, I think he could be a legitimate starting center for a decade, right?

IMMAN ADAN: No level score to three levels to two level scores. I get it.

GIANCARLO NAVAS: You know what I mean? Like I don't think he'll ever be a guy who can-- I think he's shown flashes of playmaking. But I just don't think you want to rely on that. I just think, as a guy who can lead a break a little bit, can rebound, can be a good dive man in the pick and roll, and that you can have a little variance, you know, Imman?

Watching the Heat, they went from having too many pick and pop guys to having no pick and pop guys, and you lose a-- you just lose something in your offense when that guy sets the screen, and everyone knows where he's going. And it doesn't-- it just simplifies help and offense. And when you have a guy who can roll or pop, like Ibaka, like Mark, even though Mark just started popping, again, you know, just that diversity in your offense matters. And I think for a team, like Toronto, where I just think, naturally, like, listen, Fred's going to struggle finishing, 1%, first percentile, sixth, fifth, seventh, third, sixth. Those are his career percentiles finishing at the rim.

IMMAN ADAN: He's a 6-foot guard, yeah.

GIANCARLO NAVAS: Yeah, it's just that's just who he is, right? So you need to really compensate in other places and what you get from him in other-- so I could see him being, like, a legitimate, really good starting center if he can really get the finishing under control. And if not, let's say, he just continues to be a bad finisher. I think with the defense and the shooting, he'll be, like, a legit backup five, and that stuff matters, Imman. Because, like, the Heat brought Dedmon on, completely changed the outlook of their season.

IMMAN ADAN: For sure.

GIANCARLO NAVAS: Don't-- I think people, like, oftentimes, shit on, oh, backup point guard, backup wing, back up five man. That matters, and if you're, like, a legit reliable backup five, that matters. You know, I can get, like, productive quality minutes out of you, that you can do these things, and you have a special shooting gift, and you can do it. So that's kind of where I see him.

I try to think of a player comp. His size makes it tough, so I don't know. Yeah, I don't know, but I do think that he can be, like, be in the league for 10 years, which I think is a win.

IMMAN ADAN: I mean, that's definitely a win. I think with someone, I think you just mentioned it. The floor with the defense there is just-- like his floor is already just high enough because of the defense that he brings. And if he could just add more offensively-- and the Raptors don't really need him to be much of a playmaker. I think the goal is for Scottie to really develop as that and for Pascal to even develop a little bit more as that, and really, run those guys, and then you have Fred VanVleet, and then, hopefully, we'll talk about it in a little bit, bring in another ball handler.

So you're not going to really need that from Precious, but his ability to do that on occasion, his ability as a center to bring the ball up the court is something that's just rare, and fun, and just a feature of this new NBA. I think you really hit the nail on the head. It's hard to pick a player comp for a guy, like that, because it feels very new agey almost, right? Like it's just so new NBA that I don't know. My brain is--

GIANCARLO NAVAS: He'll develop a lot, too, because he'll play a lot with the Nigerian team who are-- they're very good. And they're going to play a lot of international tournaments, and I just think that kind of pressure, experience, and, like, those reps are going to matter. So he's going to have a lot of chances to improve, and he's still very young. So I think that-- and, like, every fake trade I made trying to get Lowry, it included Precious, because Toronto needed a big who can kind of dive to the basket. And he fit the profile of what they wanted to do. So as long as Masai is there, and that's the vision of where the team goes, you know, I just think he's a good, natural fit.

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