Raptors’ Achiuwa struggles just part of the process of becoming an NBA player


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There’s no hiding it. Precious Achiuwa has had two horrible games in a row.


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That they come on the back of a handful of so-so games to start the year has Achiuwa’s name mired deep in the mud among the rabid Raptors’ fanbase.

The first-year Raptor and second-year NBAer has run the gamut from poor shot selection and shot execution to letting those offensive woes dictate his defensive focus and energy. It’s been a bit of a steady slow slide.

For every exhilarating end-to-end single-player fastbreak ending in an easy bucket there are three or four failures around the rim to covert even the easiest of layups. The defensive indifference though has been obvious.

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It has been cringe worthy and resulted in the expected response from head coach Nick Nurse who turned to Khem Birch and was rewarded with much improved play from the position.


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Achiuwa may only be starting because Birch missed almost all of training camp due to COVID.

Now that Birch is ramping back up to speed, as was obvious in his play when he replaced Achiuwa for the bulk of that impressive win over the Knicks at MSG, a change in the pecking order is almost expected with Achiuwa going back to a secondary role and Birch moving into the starting five.

Even that may be temporary with Pascal Siakam on his way back and Nurse needing to find a spot in that top 5 for his go-to scorer, but that’s not the point here.

The point here is, as tough as Achiuwa has had it of late, nobody within the organization is giving up on him and neither should the fanbase.

Nurse has been exceedingly positive throughout Achiuwa’s struggles. He doesn’t discount them, but he plainly understands the damage he could do by piling on a young man with more and more criticism at a time when that is all that social media and society in general is dumping on him at this point.


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Nurse remains a huge proponent of Achiuwa and what he brings to the Raptors’ roster.

Players with the combination of his size and speed and athleticism aren’t as common as the every-day NBA fan believes.

“He’s just a little out of character these last couple games, just doesn’t quite have it going on either end,” Nurse said after the win in New York. “He’ll be all right. I talked to him yesterday, this is a long season and these guys are young, you can’t expect the same thing every night. Each game’s different and for me and him, I believe in him. He’s got talent all over the place and just gotta wash those two games away, get him back playing, get his confidence back up.”

Nurse has shown time and again he is not afraid to publicly call out a player if he believes it’s warranted. He did it earlier last week with Chris Boucher and in previous seasons with Pascal Siakam, Norm Powell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and others.


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But when it comes to young players just starting out, you are not likely to hear Nurse be as blatantly or publicly critical.

It’s because he respects and understands the time and the process necessary to turn a young man into an NBA player.

Achiuwa has shown plenty of flashes both in the pre-season and the regular season already to convince most he has at worst a solid future in the NBA and maybe something much better than that.

But the learning curve is the learning curve and there is no getting around it.

Former Heat teammates Goran Dragic said in Achiuwa’s rookie season in Miami he was kind of “put in a box.” Basically, Achiuwa’s role was extremely limited and very specific.

That’s not the role that is here for him in Toronto. Here, Achiuwa is going to be allowed to have a much bigger and widespread impact on the game and in order to do that Achiuwa has been given minutes to learn on the fly. That means making mistakes and learning from them and figuring out for himself what approach is best.


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The hope and the expectation is that Achiuwa will figure it out, but with that comes the expectation that there are going to be speed bumps along the way.

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Those speed bumps are what Achiuwa is experiencing right now and while the patience of the fanbase may be tested by them, understand Nurse and management have a different perspective.

More than one member of the Raptors braintrust has spoken casually about the sign and trade that sent Kyle Lowry to Miami and brought Goran Dragic and Achiuwa to Toronto and the message is always that the return was and always will be Achiuwa.

With all due respect to Dragic, who is a prince of a man and a basketball player, even in his 14th year more than capable of taking a team to another level, Dragic for the Raptors was simply trade ballast, his $19.4-million salary necessary to ensure the trade went through.

Achiuwa was the target. The Raptors aren’t about to give up on him after just 8 games and neither should you.

So maybe put the knives down and give the man a minute or two to figure it out.



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