What will Precious Achiuwa's offensive role be on Raptors?

Amit Mann and Stephen Cagan analyze Precious Achiuwa's breakout second half of the 2021-22 season and where his shots should come from in the upcoming campaign. Listen to the full podcast is on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed or watch on our Yahoo Sports Canada YouTube channel.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: What would you say are the next steps for him other than hitting more transition 3's, which are so much fun?

STEPHEN CAGAN: Yeah, the transition 3's are a beautiful sight to see. I'm sitting watching that Philly series-- just getting grab-and-goes, hitting transition 3's, blowing by Embiid on the baseline, and dunking, and shutting the faucet off defensively. And I was just absolutely-- I was blown away. I was like, what have I been missing?

And so I go back, and I watch some early-season stuff. And I'm just like, this guy's a different dude than he was at the beginning of the year. And then I start looking into it. I see a lot of the chatter about in-season improvement and all the crazy leaps that he's been taking in the middle of the year. And I was really shocked by that.

So I started digging into the numbers. He took one 3-point attempts last season, or in 2020-2021, and then he took 156 3-point attempts with Toronto last year at a 36% clip, which is really solid. And then I was like, all right, let's see where that line of demarcation was for him as far as taking 3's. So from the beginning of the season to the end of January, Precious attempted 1.2 3-pointers a game. And then from the beginning of February to the end of the season, he made 1.3 3-pointers a game on 3.2 attemps. So that's an unbelievable shift.

And that's something where, obviously, his shooting is going to continue to be a huge part of what his offensive ceiling is. Two other big aspects of it, which these are pretty straightforward, but his playmaking and his finishing are things that are just going to have to improve. So that's one where his playmaking was not perfect last year. He's got a little bit of a blinder situation here and there, which I appreciate.

I would rather have him be more confident now and grow into making less and less mistakes as opposed to just disappearing and being a non-factor offensively. So I like that he has that mentality, but he does need to rein it in a little bit. He ranked in the 18th percentile in passing efficiency last year, which is essentially the amount of dribbles and time of possession you have in ratio to what creation you made and what effective assists that you-- high-value assists that you produce. So he was pretty low [INAUDIBLE], which I think Raptors fans would probably affirm matches the eye test.

And then his finishing-- something I was encouraged by is that he was able to produce three self-created rim attempts per 75 possessions, which is really nice. That's in the 80th percentile of the league. And those are extremely valuable shots. If you can produce those, that opens everything for everybody else. That's something Pascal is particularly excellent at. That's what sets him apart from some other people.

So if he can-- but on the flip side of that, the issue was he was not great at finishing off of those.

AMIT MANN: No, he wasn't.

STEPHEN CAGAN: When he wasn't dunking, his touch around the rim was relatively poor last year. And that's something that I know is frustrating with Gary Trent, and I know it's frustrating with Fred VanVleet. So that lack of finishing at the rim can become multiplicative at some point when there's too many guys who can't finish on the court at the same time. So that's something that, to really aid his ceiling and aid Toronto's ceiling, he just has to improve.

But there is hope that he can at least generate those attempts. So I'm excited for that. I think those two things in tandem, along with those transition 3's and increasing his volume there, can turn him into a really effective offensive player.

AMIT MANN: Yeah. After the all-star break, he shot 46% on non-corner 3's. And I believe it was around 39% on corner 3's. And then finishing around the rim, you talked about it-- he was at 61% post all-star break. For reference, Pascal was at 65%. Scottie Barnes was at 71. So there was some progression there, like you said.

For him, it's like, how do the Raptors want to use him, and how are they looking at next season? Do they want to use next season again as another Precious Achiuwa experiment? Go out there and be somebody. Go out there and try things. Or do you rein it in a little bit more and just get him to focus on a few different things?

We saw his ability to attack close-outs in that 76ers series, blowing by Joel Embiid. But then when you get to that point, if there's a second defender, are you able to still finish through that kind of contact, maneuver in the air? He has terrific balance. He's able to contort his body in different ways around the rim. But is he able to finish in those situations?

And then also, scoring through mismatches and switches, that's a huge part, probably, for Precious to be able to find his own offense, along with transition. I still think you should look for ways to guard or take on matchups, face up in transition, hitting those little pull-ups around the free throw line extended. And that's where he can show off his guard skills, if you will, show off your handle, get to the bucket, do all that. But he's got to be able to find ways to rein it in a little bit in certain situations.

And so for the Raptors, if he's your person who's hitting 3's, if he's able to attack closeouts, if he's able to run in transition because he's a monster in that way-- and then when he gets around the rim in transition, at least it goes much better. When it's around traffic, things don't go as well. And then over time, maybe he's able to develop his face-up game. It's not going to happen immediately. And that's one of the harder transitions for any player, is when you're able to score on the person in front of you in isolation situations, that means you're becoming a terrific player.

Ask Pascal Siakam. He has learned, over the past few years, how to become that dude. And now he's the guy who is the hub of the Raptors offense who teams are guarding with five people. Some of the lineups I saw against Pascal were crazy. You talk boxing one. It was, like, five on one. And I'm like, how is Pascal going to be scoring in this situation? It was crazy what he was encountering.

So the Raptors could probably use a little bit more variety in their offense, which I think we'll get to in a second here. But for Precious, just attacking closeouts, finishing around the rim, attacking in transition, continuing to do that, bring the ball up the court, and then the decision making. It's probably something that he has to work on over time. It's not something that's going to come.

You get that through game reps. You can't really work on it in practice. You can watch film, which is good. But it's about quick decisions in the moment that separates him and is going to make him a less turnover-prone player when he does have the ball in his hands.

STEPHEN CAGAN: Yeah.

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