Amongst all the James Harden speculation, the Miami Heat have some difficult choices to make about the current roster for the coming season.
Precious Achiuwa is one of them. Arriving in the United States as a skinny teenager from Nigeria, one observer wasn’t even sure about his linguistic abilities.
“He showed up at my house and he was 6-3, real skinny and he had on a French toast shirt, like a button-up, and some slacks and some shoes. I couldn’t stop laughing,” Shane DeNully said. “The funniest thing is I didn’t even know he spoke complete English. I’m sitting there talking to him in slow verbiage, and he’s got a little sense of humor and some sarcasm, so he’s letting me talk. I’m telling him how to use the shower, hot and cold, and after like 10 minutes he’s like, ‘You know I speak English, right?’ ”
Before Achiuwa grew into his present physique he imagined himself as a point guard rather than a power player.
“When he first came over, you couldn’t tell him he wasn’t Magic Johnson or Penny Hardaway,” DeNully said, laughing. “I remember there was one time we were trying to run a play. It was eighth grade, he was in a scrimmage, and the point guard wasn’t giving him the ball so he got closer and closer and closer to where he tried to take the basketball from his own teammate.”
Early video clips from his New Heights days in New York showed a slim Achiuwa handling the ball effortlessly on the court. His build back then was a far cry from his present NBA body.
Later on Achiuwa transferred to Montverde Academy in Florida, where he teamed up with top 2021 NBA Draft prospect Cade Cunningham for a season. By then he was morphing into the more chiseled build we see today.
Looking at the clips Achiuwa has a quick first step when going to rim. In the game against the Toronto Raptors he also demonstrated a skill he had since high school by making a lightly contested jumper.
Although Achiuwa looked great in that sequence, he needs more experience in dealing with elite NBA defenders when they contest his jumper during the regular season.
“He shot 27.8% on jump shots overall and only made 1 out of 18 contested catch & shoot jumpers... Yes, 1-18!...Achiuwa has possessions where he settles for jumpers off the dribble even though he only made 8 out of 28 attempts on pull up J’s.”
Achiuwa isn’t a Duncan Robinson on catch and shoots, but together they might form a great combination on offense with their complimentary skill sets. In his game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Achiuwa beat both Jaxson Hayes and Zion Williamson off the dribble to score at the rim. Notice Achiuwa dribbled with his left hand against them, but during the game he was just as facile dribbling right-handed. Previous to those plays he scored on off-the-ball actions for baskets at the rim earlier in the video.
With only a few days remaining before the regular season begins, the Heat need to make choices that could impact the team for years to come. The win against the Raptors make decisions even more difficult.
The coming out of KZ Okpala gives the Heat the prospect of two athletic forwards who can both score and defend. One preseason, almost scrimmage, game isn’t the same as playoff battles. However a frontcourt of Okpala and Achiuwa has promising two-way potential. That pairing gives the Heat a starting five of Jimmy Butler and Robinson as guards, Okpala and Achiuwa as forwards, and Bam Adebayo at the five. Those five could function as a positionless defensive quintet.
However the NBA would test their mettle during the season as Butler is the only one drafted before 2017. Will their relative inexperience be exposed? Only time will tell.