With the San Antonio Spurs projected to pick 11th overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, Memphis’s Precious Achiuwa shouldn’t be an option in that range.
The San Antonio Spurs frontcourt woes have been on display throughout their 2019-20 NBA season. Precious Achiuwa, while being a great fit for what the Spurs need, doesn’t show NBA Draft lottery-level upside in his game up to this point.
When James Wiseman left the Memphis Tigers after three games during the 2019-20 NCAA season, the Tigers were left without a force in the frontcourt, and nobody to lead their team. With their season success in doubt, a new leader in the frontcourt arose. Freshman Precious Achiuwa had a season to remember. After leading the Tigers in minutes, points, rebounds, and blocks, Achiuwa displayed his unique two-way ability.
Many would consider Achiuwa to be outdated and one that doesn’t fit the modern era of NBA basketball, but Precious has traits that should entice teams across the league. His ability to attack the basket off the bounce, that leads him to feature his plethora of finishes at the basket, Achiuwa moves exceptionally well for a 6-foot- 9 power forward. A true “tweener” in the frontcourt, Achiuwa can provide NBA teams versatility on both ends.
Surely, the Spurs should take a look at the power forward. They have endless options at this point, but is he the ideal pick at number 11? I don’t believe so. The Spurs shouldn’t take him in the mid-late lottery should they be picking there. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be doing their due-diligence on the Memphis product though, as he can possibly be a candidate the Spurs could trade up for in the late first or second round.
Next: Getting to know Precious Achiuwa
Who is Precious Achiuwa?
Achiuwa is a 6-foot-9 big man who played his lone collegiate season at the University of Memphis. He was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria and played basketball in three different states: New York, New Jersey, and most notably Florida, where he attended Monteverde Academy.
Achiuwa has a wingspan nearing seven feet and three inches. With length and athleticism to back his game, he’s been the ultimate mismatch at every level of basketball he’s competed at. In his senior season at Monteverde Academy, he averaged 14 points and 7.2 rebounds. Coming out of high school, he was a 5-star recruit, ranked as high as the #9 recruit in the nation in 2019.
He committed to Memphis on May 17, 2019, joining the No. 1 recruit in his class, Wiseman, and his AAU teammate, Lester Quinones. The star-studded Memphis Tigers had loads of potential before Wiseman’s abrupt departure from the squad.
Getting to know his skill set and what might translate to the NBA?
In this pace and space era of the NBA, the Center position is looked at in one of two ways: Rim runners who have high rebound and/or defensive upside, or three-point shooters who can space the floor for their squad. Achiuwa is on the rim-running side of the position.
He excels in transition with explosiveness that leaps off your screen and an arsenal of fancy finishes for his size. He’s an energy-filled, hustle player on both ends. His game feeds off cleaning the glass, put-back dunks, and all the unappreciative things you ask from your frontcourt.
His offense mainly relies on the buckets he gets in transition, but his offensive game isn’t entirely limited to that. At Memphis, he’s shown the ability to put multiple post moves together. He showed his quick footwork and strength both in the post and when finishing at the rim.
In the half-court, he’s excellent as a roll-man. Achiuwa a solid screen-setter that attacks the basket with ferocity off the roll. Despite his 32.5 percent three-point shot and near 50 percent field goal percentage, he won’t give you much of a jump-shot at all.
What he will give you, is a strong set of dribble moves and strong straight-line dribble penetration off the bounce that leads him to the basket. Defenders cannot dare to give him much space to finish at the rim. He is one of the strongest finishers at the rim in his class, though his game relies almost if not all, on athleticism.
Fundamentally and overall skill-wise, he isn’t sound on offense. He didn’t show much of a jumper or an effective ball-handle at Memphis. Outside of a drive to the cup, he won’t give you any consistent offensive scoring output outside of the painted area. When going up against true, stout post defenders in the NBA or athletic bigs who can keep up with him, his scoring during the season will be very inconsistent.
Defensively and as a rebounder on both ends, he is much better. He is excellent at pick-and-roll defense and when teams get the switch on him, he has shown the ability to move well laterally and defend his man “north and south” if it’s asked.
Precious averaged nearly two blocks per contest in his freshman year at Memphis and can protect the rim well for a forward who will likely translate to a modern-day center in the NBA. His length, defensive, and rebounding upside surely gives teams an interesting view to look at when dissecting his game.
His 7’2.5 wingspan does him a bunch of favors in the defense and rebounding categories as he averaged over ten per game in college, three of which came on the offensive glass. Achiuwa has shown a good defensive IQ and he’s very consistent on the glass as well.
Next: Why the Spurs should avoid him
Regardless of his strengths, the Spurs shouldn’t pursue Achiuwa
As this team is currently constructed, I don’t believe he could make an immediate impact at his position—especially not the impact you’d hope for if you’re selecting him in the lottery. Precious Achiuwa, while listed as a PF, will definitely be a center in the NBA. He doesn’t space the floor or create a mismatch against modern-day fours in the league. Therefore, his best fit on every team in the NBA is at the five.
His game shows flashes of both Kenneth Faried and Montrezl Harrell, but he isn’t quite the athlete that those two are. He isn’t as skilled on either end like Montrezl, and his athletic ability is a tier below both Faried and Harrell. His effectiveness in pick-and-roll situations on both ends of the floor works well for this day and age of the NBA and he is a point guard’s dream in transition.
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That said, in the half-court, where the majority of the game is played, his play-style is only effective within 0-3 feet of the basket. Unless his three-point shot dramatically improves in both skill and consistency and his ball-handle diversifies, teams will force him to shoot 10-16 foot jump shots and three-pointers until it improves or he phases out of the NBA.
Surely, he is skilled and possesses traits that work well in the modern NBA. Just about any and every team needs high energy, solid screen-setting, rim-running big men who can defend pick-and-roll well and clean the glass. Truly a cleanup duty center that teams love on their second unit.
In the lottery though, he isn’t the player you should hang your hat high on while turning in that draft card.
He can be an interesting project in the late first round and definitely in the second round, but in the lottery, the Spurs should not select him.