Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors: Precious Achiuwa's eye-popping potential in four preseason plays

Precious Achiuwa continues to impress.

Following a solid showing in Summer League with the Raptors, Achiuwa played and started in all five of Toronto's preseason games ahead of the 2021-22 season. He was the team's third-leading scorer (12.4 points per game), shot 50.0 percent from the field and led the way with 8.6 rebounds per game. He also averaged a team-high 2.0 steals to go along with 0.8 blocks.

We looked at what the Raptors are getting in Achiuwa when they acquired him from the Miami Heat in the offseason, but he did some things during the preseason that we didn't see much of - if at all - from him last season.

Let's take a closer look at four particular plays that caught my eye.

MORE: What we learned from Raptors in preseason

Keeping it spaced

Basically all of Achiuwa's shots came around the basket last season.

According to, 216 of his 228 field goal attempts came in the painted area. He was 1-for-11 (9.1 percent) from midrange and 0-for-1 from 3-point range with his lone 3-point attempt coming down the stretch of a game that was already well out of reach.

Achiuwa wasn't much of a shooter in his one and only collegiate season at Memphis, but he showed some ability to space the floor in taking 1.3 3-pointers per game and knocking them down at a 32.5 percent clip.

We saw a little more of that shooting touch in preseason, starting with this pick-and-pop in Toronto's opener:

In total, Achiuwa went 3-for-5 (60.0 percent) from midrange and 2-for-9 (22.2 percent) from 3-point range in preseason. That's still not much of a sample size, but it's an encouraging start. (Also, that pick-and-pop was pretty dang smooth.)

Picking up the pace

It's no secret that Nick Nurse's teams like to run.

In Dwane Casey's last season as head coach of the Raptors (2017-18), Toronto ranked 11th in the league with 16.9 transition possessions per game. Since Nurse has taken over, the Raptors have ranked no lower than fifth in that category, peaking in 2019-20 with a league-leading 24.2 transition possessions per game.

It's easy to imagine Achiuwa complementing the likes of Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby well in the open court on the strength of his speed and athleticism alone, but he showcased the ability to grab and go in preseason.

This is pretty fluid for someone Achiuwa's size:

This is even more fluid, though I can't imagine we'll see many pull-up jumpers in transition from him this season:

Between VanVleet, Siakam, Anunoby, Goran Dragic and Scottie Barnes, the Raptors aren't exactly short on ball handlers, but it certainly doesn't hurt having another player who can initiate the offence every now and then, even if it's as simple as pushing the ball up the floor and flowing directly into handoffs.

Flipping the switch

Achiuwa has a good amount of potential on offence. He has even more on the other end of the court.

What Achiuwa lacks in size, he makes up for with his versatility. He guarded mostly power forwards and centers last season, but The BBall Index had him spending an equal amount of time defending point guards (11.0 percent), shooting guards (11.0 percent) and small forwards (10.8 percent).

As we saw in preseason, Achiuwa is comfortable switching onto perimeter players.

"That's one of the skills that I have, quick feet, quickness, being able to slide laterally and not just (leap) vertically," Achiuwa said. "And I use that to my advantage when I'm guarding smaller guys, to keep them in front of me and go side to side with them and cut off their move.

"That's one of the things that goes back to versatility, having guys that can do a lot of things, not just on offence but on defence as well."

We'll see if it happens immediately, but this group could be special defensively. VanVleet, Anunoby and Siakam are already All-Defensive calibre of players. Barnes harassed opponents at every position when he was at Florida State, earning him the reputation of being one of the best defenders in the 2021 NBA Draft class. Nobody blocked more 3-pointers than Chris Boucher last season.

With Achiuwa also in the mix, Nurse will have the option of rolling out some dynamic defensive lineups.

Locking down the paint

It'll be interesting to see how Nurse uses Achiuwa this season.

Achiuwa primarily played center for the Heat last season, but him improving as a shooter and ball handler would open the door for him to log more minutes next to another big. As a power forward, Achiuwa will be able to switch more defensively. As a center, he'll have to anchor the defence more.

The numbers point to Achiuwa being a rather effective rim protector last season. He averaged a solid 1.4 blocks per 36 minutes and held opponents to 56.4 percent shooting around the basket, which was 5.9 percentage points below their average.

Again, his size limits him some - he's listed at only 6-8, which is on the small side for a center - but his 7-2 wingspan helps him affect shots.

On a team loaded with players between 6-6 and 6-9, there's a need for some rim protection. Perhaps Achiuwa can fill that gap.

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