Precious Achiuwa, PF/C, Memphis
Age: 21 (9/19/1999)
Precious Achiuwa college stats
At the NBA level, reaching an elite threshold for impact often ends up requiring a baseline for athleticism. Very few NBA players can be both high level offensive and defensive threats unless this prerequisite is met. Fortunately for Achiuwa, he has plenty of athletic traits for both ends of the floor.
Achiuwa’s fluid movement at 6’9, 235 is fairly rare, though becoming increasingly common for teams with elite bigs. He has the strength to bang with bigger opponents and the foot speed to wall off the paint from guards and wings. He makes frequent plays at the rim, moves in transition well, and will rarely find himself in situations where he can’t keep up with opponents physically.
Defensive Instincts and Impact
I alluded to it in the previous section, but it’s worth mentioning again: Achiuwa’s physical tools give him a leg up toward becoming one of the better defenders at the NBA level. Achiuwa captained a Memphis team that KenPom graded as a top five defense in the country, and it’s easy to see why. Achiuwa’s length bothered opponents on the perimeter as he frequently switched onto guards and wings to cause havoc.
Achiuwa also made some plays as a strong side and weak side rim protector, either by defending 1-on-1 or flying in to reject layup attempts. Having the instincts and wherewithal to only foul out of one game in his college career (played 42 minutes, grabbed 17 rebounds) is impressive. If he can utilize his athleticism to defend almost every position without fouling at the next level, he could become a terror on the less glamorous end.
Rebounding and Energy
There are few players in this draft class that play with the motor that Achiuwa consistently put forth in his minutes at Memphis.
The rebounding stands out, as Achiuwa led the AAC in rebounding rate as a freshman. Even though he played next to another big man, he made the most of his opportunities and found extra possessions with his physical tools and hustle.
Offensive Role Player Potential
Most of Achiuwa’s possessions offensively were a product of others creating for him, but as a big man at the NBA level, there isn’t a major problem with that. He had some possessions where he created for himself in the post or performed dribble drives from the perimeter, but Achiuwa will make most of his impact in supporting areas. He was used mostly as a roll man in pick and roll situations, a lob threat out of those sets and on baseline cuts, running in transition, and grabbing offensive rebounds for put backs.
Achiuwa’s efficiency tanked when he was asked to do more than he was ready to do. He frequently attempted pull up midrange jumpers, drove into traffic, and played like a star when his role at the next level will mostly be as a finisher. If he cuts down on the extra stuff, his efficiency will take a major step forward.
There are concerns about his shooting and whether he has the touch to be an efficient offensive player at the next level on shots that aren’t at the rim. He shot under 60% on free throws in college and made just 13-of-40 three-pointers (32.5 3P%). To play power forward at the next level, Achiuwa will be asked to hit outside jumpers regularly—or at least be a threat to take those shots.
There’s reason to believe Achiuwa will be able to shoot at the next level. His mechanics are relatively clean, and he has a good feel for the shooting footwork on pick and pop jumpers. As he becomes more accustomed to NBA offense, this feels like a skill that could either pop at the next level or hinder his ceiling. It’s up to NBA scouts and developmental programs to decide whether he will got one way or the other.
Playmaking and Feel
The numbers are what they are. Achiuwa maintained a 27.7% usage rate in 2019-20 compared to a 7.5% assist rate and 16.0% turnover rate. The big man was the top option with James Wiseman sidelined for most of the year, and that caused the efficiency numbers to understandably drop.
There are several possessions where Achiuwa’s mind is working in high gear and he wants to make high level plays for himself or others. Unfortunately, his execution in a number of areas leaves a lot to be desired. Achiuwa gets called for charges by barreling into defenders on the way to the rim. Part of his issue is playing as a diving power forward in a two-big offense a lot of the time, but he also misses some easy reads and passes while handling the ball on the move.
Projected Draft Range: Late Lottery, mid first
Denver Stiffs Big Board: 27th overall
NBA Comparisons: Bam Adebayo lite, Nerlens Noel, Montrezl Harrell
Why Achiuwa makes sense for Denver
With starting power forward Paul Millsap, assumed new starting forward Jerami Grant, and backup center Mason Plumlee all slated to be free agents this offseason, the Nuggets should be looking long and hard on how to solve their big man dilemma. On one hand, surrounding Nikola Jokić with shooting and playmaking would go a long way to elevate their defense; however, with Michael Porter Jr. expected to assume a larger role, the Nuggets may not need another highly talented offensive player.
Enter Precious Achiuwa, who carried a heavy burden offensively in college but projects to serve a complementary role in the pros. He appears to be a perfect fit next to Jokić defensively and as a hustle rebounder while having enough size to play center against most bench units. He plays the game differently from Millsap or Plumlee, but perhaps that’s a good thing for what the Nuggets need in their future.
In addition, there are very few player types that project to be a good matchup against Anthony Davis and bigs like him. If his talent is cultivated correctly, Achiuwa could be one of the few with the strength to battle with Davis as well as the foots peed to keep pace with him.
Why Achiuwa doesn’t make sense for Denver
It’s possible that Achiuwa won’t be ready to contribute immediately this next season. He has plenty of work to do making high level reads on the offensive end, and the Nuggets can’t handle countless mistakes from role players as a championship contender going forward.
In addition, the perimeter jumper, though it’s a boring detraction, remains important for NBA offenses at the professional level. The Nuggets may not want to surround Jokić with players that can’t maintain efficient perimeter shooting, and Achiuwa’s jumper is questionable enough to be a point of concern for their ability to play together.
I’m a fan of Achiuwa’s game. He has many physical tools to be impactful at the next level, and he deserves credit for leading the Memphis defense to an excellent season as a freshman. Few bigs in this draft class, if any, could say the same. Though he was asked to do a lot offensively, he will have the opportunity to fall back upon the things he’s good at when he gets to the NBA level. His rebounding, rim running, and transition game combined with excellent defensive potential highlight what makes Achiuwa an intriguing prospect at the next level.
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