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Precious Achiuwa has to rediscover his identity with Raptors

Amit Mann and Esfandiar Baraheni analyze Precious Achiuwa's recent struggles and the keys to the 23-year-old finding a rhythm on both ends.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: You have to press up on them a little bit more. There were a few occasions, especially in the second quarter, when Precious wasn't doing very good things.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Yeah.

AMIT MANN: He's sagging behind the 3-point line. And Kyle Kuzma's just pulling up from 3. And I'm just like, bro, what are you doing? And there was one screen-and-roll that they ran. And Chris followed them into the rim. And Precious sagged off and after he made the shot. Chris is just like, what the hell are you doing?

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Yeah, no, sometimes--

AMIT MANN: Shawn Michaels, what are you doing?

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Yeah, right, right.

AMIT MANN: No, that's Triple H, sorry. He's Triple H, my bad.

[LAUGHTER]

Precious is Triple H. Chris is Shawn Michaels.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Chris is Shawn Michaels? No, but sometimes it does feel like Precious is just not-- like he's not in the game, like he's just a conduit of some sorts, just following through, going through the motions. Again, that's sort of a part of being a young guy in the league--

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --and figuring out when you're going to be an active participant in a game because I think Scottie goes through this sometimes too. And that's probably part of the whole fourth quarter Scottie thing is he is just going through the motions of the game. He's just really just kind of following what's happening versus trying to be an active participant.

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: What you mentioned earlier about Precious Achiuwa in the sense that he is so good at attacking closeouts when he wants to. And when he's able to leverage his athleticism to do these tough finishes, the great dunks, the blow-bys, et cetera, all that stuff is so true. It's so potent. And it's when he's an active participant, it's when he's actively looking to figure out what he can do to break the defense down.

And then on the defensive end, I think the same thing applies. It's how are you going to impact the game. I remember during-- not media day but one of these practices, I was watching their media availability. And Jakob was-- or sorry, Precious was asked about Jakob Poetl's presence and how that may help him defensively. And he's like, honestly, bro, I don't need anybody else to help me defensively.

And I feel like he took that as a slight, right?

AMIT MANN: Yep, yep.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: And I-- look, since then, his defense has not been the greatest.

AMIT MANN: Sure.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: But he has to take on those--

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Take that as a competition point. Jakob is out here destroying the starter minutes. They're plus-30 every time he's on the court, whereas when they sub you in off the bench, they're bleeding points defensively. If you can be that defensive anchor--

AMIT MANN: Sure.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --now's the time to prove it.

AMIT MANN: Nick Nurse said after the game that the start of the second quarter and the start of the fourth quarter has hurt us all year. And he's kind of talking about Precious and Chris a little bit.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Right.

AMIT MANN: And I respect that Precious has been throttled into these positions throughout the season where he's like the safety guy. OG's out? OK, Precious in. We don't have a backup center? Precious in. We need someone to make something happen off the dribble because we have a really crappy lineup out there? Go out there and do something, Precious.

So some stability for him is really important. And that's why I like the idea of Will Barton coming on because it just makes sense. We're having a roster that just from top to tail, you're seeing, OK, so that's a center. That's a point guard. These are shooting guards. There's balance there. But now he has to adjust again into a different role once again. And he's struggling with that a little bit. But he's got to figure it out quickly.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Yeah.

AMIT MANN: That's just kind of it. He has to figure it out quickly. And the competition, the compete has to be higher. I hear what you're saying. I think he is competing. But I think there has to be a mental focus with that too. You have to be a second ahead. I mean, there was occasions last night where he didn't attack, where I'm just like, you got this fella here. The baseline's wide open. That's when you do attack.

But then on other occasions, he's attacking right into a collapsed defense. And then they throw the ball over him. I'm like, well, that's not it, man. That's not it.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Yeah, yeah. Or he's like-- he goes straight into his post-up, and then he can't post the guy up. And then he just fumbles the ball.

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: The handle falls off.

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Yeah, look, it's the highs and lows with Precious Achiuwa, very similar to what it was last year. It's just that last year at this point in the season, he was really breaking through. The 3-point shot was converting really well.

AMIT MANN: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Obviously, things were figuring it out. He looked more poised, more thing. This year, it's been kind of hit-or-miss. It's sometimes he's on. When he came back from his injury in January, he was excellent, exceptional. And now he's kind of fallen into a bit of a rut.

For him and for Scottie and even to a certain extent Gary, it's finding a way that you can be consistent and not just consistent in your shot making, not just consistent in how many points you have on the board, but how you can impact the game in other ways. And clearly for this Raptors team, it's defensively.

AMIT MANN: Yeah, it is.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: That goes for Scottie. That goes for Precious. That goes for Gary. Those are guys that they need to rely on. As you mentioned, transitional lineups and the way that they can be good defensively, it's on those three. Those three plus--

AMIT MANN: Sure, it is.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --Chris are the guys that are going to be transitioning through these lineups.

And if you can find a way for those guys to impact your games defensively, you're going to win them. The reason they pulled out that Bulls game was because of some massive plays down the stretch by Scottie Barnes defensively.

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: He was the one who-- the blocked shots obviously-- but he was more feisty at the point of attack. He was great as a helper and as a roamer. And if you--