Amit Mann and Jevohn Shepherd discuss the signs they've seen that Precious Achiuwa is starting to feel like himself after missing significant time due to injury. Listen to the full episode on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed or watch on our YouTube.
AMIT MANN: I've really liked what I seen from Precious Achiuwa recently. He's kind of finding himself. And last night, he had a number of blocks, and he was really patrolling that paint, controlling the space, and deterring shots. And coming into the season, there were some who were thinking that, OK, so do the Raptors make that pivot? Do they make Precious their starter?
And he didn't get off to a great start. He was coming off the bench, and then he got hurt. But he's back now. And when he is in the game, their defense noticeably gets better. Like it's not even maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. No, it does get better. Earlier in the season, defense was-- well, defense has been a problem all year.
But earlier in the season, the pushback would be Gary is such a good 3 point shooter. He's so consistent. You need that. And he's the only one of the current starting five that you would think that might be going to the bench. That's why he did. But now with Precious, with the way he's playing-- and I mean, the deadline is going to inform this a little bit, because it feels like the Raps are going to do something.
But what are your thoughts on something like that? Whatever does happen, a starter does leave the starting lineup. Is Precious Achiuwa probably the guy that gets inserted? And it provides some 3 point shooting-- a stay at home defenseman, like I was talking about, who has a few things that he's asked to do but not much more. And then the rim protection versatility is certainly going to be an asset.
JEVOHN SHEPHERD: Yeah, I think we don't jump the gun there too much, too early. Because we've been premature, even with the expectations of this team. It's been a bit premature. And you and I were just talking about it before. Just a year ago, we were talking about this team being a rebuild team, right? And then they have a good year last year and exceed expectations.
And then now our heads were spun upside down with how terrible they've been. So I think where Precious is concerned, we've also got to temper what we expect of him and just allow him to grow because he's still young. And I think over the last couple of games is where we've really seen Precious-- less is more.
He's scaled back. He's doing the things that he's really good at, that come naturally to him. And we may be getting high on him again, which is great, but allow him to be that person and not just say, OK, this-- he can be a quick fix. No, he's playing good basketball right now because he's scaled back. Less is more.
He's not doing as much in the open court or playing as if he's a wing. But he's playing as if he's a forward. He's playing as if he's a big. He's getting on the offensive glass. He's giving you second chance opportunities. He's making energy plays. He's making athletic plays. And then now, you get him to shots on the perimeter, and they're just open. And he's able to knock that down.
Yesterday, seen him give up an open 3 to get Fred a 3. And just-- those decisions-- maturing and just understand, OK, I'm going to give up a good shot to get a great shot-- a better shooter a great shot. So just allowing him to understand, step by step, step by step, step by step, and just using my natural God given ability, I can really impact the game.
So I wouldn't just say, yeah, right away he's had two or three games or he's playing good basketball, and he's got to be the guy to fix this. No, let's just allow him to really feel out his way, really to understand the NBA game now and where he impacts that, where he fits in, and how he can utilize his skill.
And that, for young guys, as well that have a tremendous amount of ability and have a tremendous amount of athleticism and also playing for a coach that gives you freedom on the offensive end, it's up to them really to understand how to really piece it all together. Because as long as--
--commit on the defensive side, give effort on the defensive side, you're going to have the freedom on the offensive.
AMIT MANN: You earn it, yeah.
JEVOHN SHEPHERD: Yeah, which is sometimes a gift and a curse being that young, because it takes a lot of maturity. It takes a lot of self awareness to say, OK, I'm just going to stick in this lane. And I'm going to allow it to grow out, slowly but surely. And I think early on, late last year, early this year, before he had gotten hurt, he was still in the mode of, no, I'm just going to go, go, go. And that kind of impacted him a bit negatively.
AMIT MANN: Sure.
JEVOHN SHEPHERD: Now he's a bit more tunnel visioned, a bit more narrowed, a bit more focused. And it's paying dividends.