Precious Achiuwa’s first two NBA games have been quite intriguing. It started with an alley-oop dunk in Orlando and continued with a tasteful Christmas day victory at the empty American Airlines Arena.
It’s featured an adjustment curve, too, as the lack of a Summer League, team workouts, and shortened preseason has interfered with what should’ve been a typical transition to the pros. But for the Heat, who chase another run to the NBA Finals, there’s no time to wait it out. In simple terms, they threw Achiuwa in the fire pit – and he’s getting things done.
His numbers have been short, but sweet: 9.5 points and 3.0 rebounds on 72.7% shooting. His plus/minus vs. the Magic was six and four vs. the Pelicans.
Achiuwa’s impact is exactly what was expected of him: he’s unafraid of getting scrappy and has showcased the ability to run up the floor with the ball in his hands. He’s averaged 16.5 minutes over those two games, as Erik Spoelstra has displayed his confidence in the 6-foot-8 rookie.
The former Memphis Tiger trails just Bam Adebayo amongst big-men in the depth chart, as his presence is the closest thing to duplicating what’s done by the first-time All-Star.
“He’s really improved in just the two weeks we’ve worked with him,” Spoelstra said on Achiuwa. “We all can’t imagine how much further he’d be advanced if we had our normal summer league and full summer player development program and the September prep. He’s a quick study and he’s very diligent and committed to the work and studying film, getting with the coaches. He picks up things very quickly, that’s probably a skill into itself.”
Rewinding the tape, Achiuwa shows his consistency to connect with teammates on the pick and roll and loves to get involved at the rim. Best of all, he clearly understands the role he’s been asked to do.
As shown in the last clip, Achiuwa’s usage of Miami’s pick and roll and dribble-hand-off set is a recipe for success. His athleticism and explosiveness make him better at doing such than Meyers Leonard or Kelly Olynyk, which gives Spoelstra a reason to give him more minutes.
Additionally, he can take up the court or sprint to a specific spot in transition, thanks to his speed. He can also use one dribble to attack the basket whenever he can’t give up the ball, a trait that helped Adebayo strive last season.
Achiuwa has shown that he can play with everyone – although the preferred seems to be Goran Dragic – off the P&R and DHO. So far, he’s done it with Jimmy Butler, Dragic, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Andre Iguodala.
Still, he’s got room to improve. For starters, facing up bigger opponents like Steven Adams (6-foot-11) and Nikola Vucevic (7-foot) has been difficult. It’s on the smaller Achiuwa to front them before they gain good positioning. Additionally, he’s got to step up earlier on pick and roll situations – ex: Adams and Lonzo Ball.
Achiuwa did adjust late in the game, however, which made Spoelstra confident enough to keep him on the court vs. Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram before fouling out. That said, he’ll continue to come off the bench early on in the game as he gets his feel for the NBA and becomes a reliable option in any specific lineup.