Potential Pistons draft target Precious Achiuwa: I can be an NBA small-ball center right now

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

Show Caption

The Miami Heat’s surprise run to the NBA Finals has shed more light on just how valuable mobile, switchable big men are in today’s league.  

Bam Adebayo, the third-year forward/center out of Kentucky, has perhaps been just as important to Miami’s run as Jimmy Butler. He’s a defensive monster, able to hold his own in the paint and along the perimeter when matched against wings. 

Other playoff teams, such as the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors, have also thrived when deploying small-ball lineups with mobile defenders at the center, or five position. The timing could work nicely for a draft prospect such as Precious Achiuwa, who’s raw offensively but has all of the tools to be a versatile defensive big in the NBA. 

FOR SUBSCRIBERS: How will Pistons approach their ‘retool’? Recent history can guide them

[ The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. ]

He’s been watching the playoffs in-between his workouts leading up to November’s draft, and it’s clear to the Memphis alumnus that there’s a place for him in the NBA. 

“Even the Lakers went small, they had Markieff (Morris) playing the five for a lot of those games,” Achiuwa said. “That’s the trend where basketball is turning into and I’m very, very comfortable playing small-ball five.”

During his virtual draft combine interview Tuesday, Achiuwa said he’s spoken  with the Detroit Pistons. He’s widely projected to go anywhere between the end of the lottery and the mid-20s of the first round — slightly below the Pistons’ seventh-overall draft position. But of Detroit’s many roster needs, a defense-minded big man who can step out to the perimeter is one of them. It makes sense that Achiuwa is on their radar given how unpredictable the draft is.

Achiuwa established himself as one of college basketball’s most athletic defenders during his lone season at Memphis. He averaged 15.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. Standing 6-foot-9 with a 7-2 wingspan, he has the size to be an impact screener and finisher at the next level. LIke Adebayo, he’s also quick and light enough on his feet to defend smaller players. 

To realize his potential, he has to improve his offensive game. When asked what his weaknesses are, he was frank. 

“My shooting, my passing and my dribbling,” he said. “Just really the offensive side of the ball game, being able to make good decisions a lot quicker, a lot faster. I work on my jump shot every day and that’s something I’ve really focused on. Getting that to where it needs to be at.”

He hit just 32.5% of his 3-pointers and 59.9% of his free throws. He only took 40 triples through 31 games. He can survive in the NBA without being a prolific shooter, but developing a respectable jumper, or even his touch around the rim, would go a long way toward opening up his offense. 

He also coughed the ball over at nearly three times the rate he created for his teammates, logging 87 turnovers against 30 assists. 

Whatever franchise ends up drafting him will have to be patient with his development. But he’s confident that he can be an impact defender immediately. 

The question for the Pistons is whether or not it’s worth taking a player such as Achiuwa, when their roster may lack the playmaking necessary to help Achiuwa take his offensive game to the next level. 

“Defense is something I can bring to the table right away for an NBA team,” he said. “Watching the game, just seeing how much they’re picking on the weakest link on defense. I believe that’s one of my strengths. That’s something I’ll bring to the table right away for an NBA team.” 

RJ Hampton optimistic overseas experience will help NBA transition 

Not much has changed with Hampton since he talked to the Free Press earlier this month about his draft preparations. He’s still training with Penny Hardaway and Mike Miller, addressing his weaknesses in the weeks before the draft. 

Once considered a potential top-five pick, an uneven season overseas in New Zealand cooled his draft stock. He’s one of the most athletic and physically-gifted guards in the draft, standing 6-5 with a 6-7 wingspan. Hardaway, one of the NBA’s most gifted point guards of yesteryear, and Miller, one of its best shooters ever, are helping him improve his range, consistency from behind the arc and ability to make the correct reads in the pick-and-roll.

He’s interviewed with the Pistons, and like Achiuwa, he may be a reach with the seventh pick. But after a season of playing professional basketball overseas, he believes he’s ahead of the curve in a guard-heavy draft class. 

“I definitely think going overseas and being professional for a year and playing against grown men definitely gives me a little bit of an edge over some college players,” he said. “I think my strengths are I’m one of, if not the, fastest guard in the draft, the most athletic guard in the draft that can do a lot of different things.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

Articles You May Like

Rising Stars Game OpenThread: Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren get a chance to shine
NBA Draft Prospects to Watch: Is Sarr a star, a hot Topic, a Risacher test, and other international players
The Pindown: Oh, Where Did Our Love Go?
Developing: Isaiah Stewart allegedly punches Suns’ Drew Eubanks before game
Pistons LIVE 2.14.24: Monty Williams

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *