Everything You Need To Know About Precious Achiuwa

Precious Achiuwa was forced to play an unfamiliar position this season which resulted in less than ideal numbers. Despite this, his combination of athleticism and raw talent make him an enticing prospect.

No prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft personifies raw talent and athleticism as much as Precious Achiuwa. Memphis's season was far from living up to expectations, and their turbulence forced Achiuwa into an unfamiliar role.

Growing up, Achiuwa mostly played on the wing, and upon joining Memphis, the expectation was he would spend most of his time at the three and four positions. After the departure of James Wiseman, though, Achiuwa was forced into playing more time at the center position than he ever had before. While this was unexpected and had mixed results, it was likely the best thing for his future development.

At 6'9 225 pounds with a 7'2 wingspan, Achiuwa is a great fit to play the four and small-ball five in the NBA. He has a high motor, ball-handling good enough to surprise opponents, and a significant defensive upside.

The biggest knock on Achiuwa's game is how unrefined his skillset is. His shooting mechanics are inconsistent, his ball-handling can get him in trouble, and his defensive awareness is erratic. Despite this, his work rate, athleticism, and versatility make it challenging to see a situation where he doesn't carve out some role on an NBA team.

I know that isn't the projection fans want to read on a potential lottery pick, but if Achiuwa joins a franchise with a quality development program, he could be a force to be reckoned with. Players who have an incredibly high motor like Achiuwa, rarely don't figure it out to some extent.

The below clip is the perfect exemplification of Achiuwa's game as he routinely outworks his opponents. After the shot goes up, Achiuwa relentlessly battles through multiple opponents before finally poking the ball forward to run in transition.

From the start, Achiuwa will be a devastating weapon in transition. This season, Achiuwa scored 1.063 points per possession (PPP) when running in transition (61st percentile), per Synergy. His mobility is highly impressive, and when he gets a runway to the rim, getting out of his way is the smart business decision.

In the below clip, Achiuwa shows his brute force in transition. He initially secures the 50-50 ball (a common theme with him) and immediately pushes it ahead to his guard, instead of casually filling his lane, Achiuwa sprints like a freight train from Hell to receive the shovel pass and finish with a devastating dunk.

Here again, Achiuwa fills his lane perfectly. He initially secures the contested defensive rebound before initiating the offense himself. As the defender steps to him, Achiuwa smartly gives it up to his guard. Many big men in this scenario would see their job complete, but instead, Achiuwa hits another gear and attacks the rim.

We saw a flash in that clip, but Achiuwa's ability to initiate transition offense is incredibly valuable. His great rebounding creates numerous chances like the below clip. After securing the long rebound, Achiuwa eagerly looks to run. He shows off his impressive speed as he crosses half-court and approaches the lane. Achiuwa could try to finish through the retreating defender, but instead of risking the charge, Achiuwa shows an excellent ability to decelerate while he dances around the would-be defender.

Another area we've seen flashes of brilliance from Achiuwa is his playmaking ability in the open floor. Having the ability to push in transition on his own is vitally important, but having the vision to throw perfect outlet passes is the quickest way to secure an easy basket. We've seen Nikola Jokic and Kevin Love elevate their team's offense with this skill. I'm not putting Achiuwa in that tier of passers, but it is a skill that is conceivable for him to develop.

Here, Achiuwa delivers a perfect pass. Achiuwa secures the rebound after blocking the shot and immediately looks to push the ball. Since he has his head up, Achiuwa can see his teammate streaking up the right-wing. This pass would be challenging for anyone on the court. Achiuwa whips a live-dribble, one-handed laser with his off-hand to his teammate in stride. The vision on its own is impressive from a big man, but the accuracy is stunning.

Again, Achiuwa immediately gets his head up after securing the rebound. Achiuwa lofts a perfectly weighted pass over the defenders to his teammate in stride for a routine layup.

Achiuwa's foresight to have his head up like this after rebounding is highly impressive for someone his age. Guards and wings will adore playing with him because they can count on Achiuwa having the awareness to find them as they bolt forward after they contest a three.

The next step in Achiuwa's playmaking development is having the capacity to pass out of the short roll. His frame and physicality make Achiuwa a quality screener, but in the NBA, he will see better rotations when he rolls to the rim. To counter this, Achiuwa must be able to find the cutter or open corner shooter.

This season, Achiuwa was often too slow at processing these reads. The below clip shows that Achiuwa can add this to his game. This play is in transition, but the read and situation are similar enough to the short roll where it is still applicable. As Achiuwa gets the ball in the lane, the weakside defender properly rotates to cut him off. Achiuwa reads it correctly, delivers an ideal pass to the corner shooter, and avoids committing a charge. Everything about this play for Achiuwa is picture-perfect.

Unfortunately, Achiuwa frequently missed these reads in the half-court offense. Here, Achiuwa slips his screen well and gets the ball in space, which forces a series of defensive rotations. Once he gets the ball, Achiuwa has a few choices to make. He can make the skip pass to the open corner shooter, he can drop it off to his cutting teammate, or he can try to finish through the rotating defender. Achiuwa chooses the latter, which results in a charge instead of an open shot.

It is somewhat understandable that Achiuwa would look to finish through the smaller defender, but he needs to be able to make the correct read in these situations. In the NBA, he will be playing a lot of four and five, which will routinely put him in these situations. If he is unable to make the necessary read in the short roll, he will rack up unnecessary offensive fouls.

Another understandable reason for Achiuwa looking to finish through that defender is that he is an absolute force when he rolls to the rim. He ranked only in the 46th percentile as the roll man this season with 0.965 PPP, but it was mostly a brand-new responsibility that he rarely experienced. With better spacing in the NBA, Achiuwa will be an excellent rim runner because of his athleticism, hands, and ability to finish.

As we can see below, Achiuwa is not someone you want to get in the way of. He initially makes solid contact with his screen and then rolls hard towards the rim. He receives an excellent pocket pass and finishes with a monstrous slam through the help-side defender's pathetic steal attempt.

Early in his career, the key for Achiuwa's offensive production is to be around the basket as much as possible. Accurate passers will be able to set him up, and his tenacious rebounding will create abundant second chance opportunities. This season, Achiuwa scored 1.195 PPP (64th percentile) around the rim, 1.146 PPP (59th percentile) on put backs, and ranked first in his conference in offensive rebounds.

As we can see below, Achiuwa does a great job of establishing an inside position for the rebound and then proceeds to outwork two opponents to earn the put-back.

Achiuwa's at rim finishing and work rate is impressive, but if he wants to expand his game, he needs to improve his shooting. This season Achiuwa shot just 32.5 percent from three. He also scored only 0.74 PPP on all jump shots (25th percentile) and 0.607 PPP on dribble jumpers (24th percentile).

A silver lining is Achiuwa scored 1.5 PPP (93rd percentile) when he was left open and shot off the catch. Unfortunately, this number plummeted to just 0.167 PPP (1st percentile) when guarded. When there is any sort of defensive presence, Achiuwa's mechanics become erratic, and his shot selection is brutal. The hope is Achiuwa can continue to punish teams when they leave him wide open. Achiuwa won't ever be an elite shooter. Still, if he can improve to just league average, defenses will be forced to respect him. This will open up the floor and also create opportunities for him to attack closeouts.

One of the fascinating pieces of Achiuwa's potential is his defensive versatility. This season, Achiuwa allowed just 0.715 PPP (83rd percentile), ranked second in the country for defensive win shares, and ranked second in the country for defensive rating.

He has the frame and athleticism to defend any position on the court; he needs to improve his defensive awareness. I wholeheartedly believe this will improve with additional repetitions and coaching, but now and then, Achiuwa will miss a rotation or get caught ball watching.

Here, we see Achiuwa way overcommit to the passing lane. Achiuwa is staring down the ball-handler the entire time and believes his man will get the pass. Instead, Achiuwa's man cuts to the lane and gets a relatively easy layup.

At times Achiuwa effectively jumps passing lanes, but he needs to tighten up his off-ball awareness. If he continues to be sloppy in that department, teammates will get tremendously frustrated with him leaving them out to dry.

Thankfully, there is far more good than bad with Achiuwa's defense, as shown below. Achiuwa is initially guarding the screener but reads the ball-handlers eyes nicely. Achiuwa's teammate is beaten on a back cut, but Achiuwa reads and rotates correctly. Achiuwa then uses his length to stay vertical at the rim and block the shot.

Besides using his length to be an intimidating rim protector, Achiuwa proved that he could be a capable perimeter defender. At times he was inconsistent at taking the correct angle, which would give opponents a driving lane. Even when this happened, though, Achiuwa could make up for it with his length.

As we can see here, though, Achiuwa mostly used his length and athleticism to be a staunch perimeter defender. Achiuwa's man initially slips the screen but drags the ball-handlers man with him. The ball-handler then smartly dribbles to that open space to take the jumper. In most cases, this shot has a chance of going in. However, Achiuwa's effort and great length allow him to contest and block the jumper.

With how frequently the NBA switches now, Achiuwa will end up facing quicker guards and wings. Here, Achiuwa does an excellent job of containing his man and eventually blocking the shot. Even though he looks like he may lose his balance at times, Achiuwa has incredibly active feet and responsive hips to adjust to every dribble move.

Going forward, Achiuwa will carve out his role by being an athletic rim runner who is a staunch defender. There will be a bit of a learning curve to playing more in the post, but with his work rate and athleticism, I find it hard to see a situation where he completely fails.

Achiuwa's high motor and defensive versatility are reminiscent of Jerami Grant and Aaron Gordon. He has work to do on his shot and decision making, but the foundation is there for Achiuwa to develop a more well-rounded offensive game. Teams in the middle of the first round should target Achiuwa if they need an infusion of athleticism, energy, and defense.

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