Just a couple weeks ago, Precious Achiuwa had arguably the best game of his rookie season. In just 12 minutes — remember, he only plays as Bam Adebayo’s backup — Achiuwa scored 14 points and grabbed seven boards. Just before the All-Star weekend, he was named to the Rising Stars team.
So why, now that Adebayo has missed time, have we seen Achiuwa become an afterthought in the rotation?
In Miami’s two games since the All-Star break, Achiuwa has logged only four and three minutes, respectively. And because Adebayo is out, Erik Spoelstra has gone to the seldom-used Chris Silva for some playing time. Prior to these last two games, Silva had last played on Jan. 16 — right after Jimmy Butler and Avery Bradley had entered the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
The issue may stem from a moment in the Heat’s win over the Orlando Magic Thursday night when Achiuwa threw the ball away, drawing the ire of Spoelstra.
To be fair, Silva made some nice defensive plays in last night’s win over the Chicago Bulls. In his 12 minutes, Silva went 2-for-2 from the field and grabbed three rebounds.
But Silva at his best is still not as good of a player as Achiuwa. And that makes sense — the Heat drafted Achiuwa with the 20th pick last year, while Silva was an undrafted player who signed a two-way contract before the 2019-20 season. Is Spoelstra playing Silva ahead of Achiuwa as a message? Could it be a sign that Miami will include Achiuwa in a deadline deal and doesn’t want him to risk an injury?
I hope this was just a message Spoelstra sent to Achiuwa that he’ll need to earn his minutes. The Heat have a lot of holes in the front-court aside from Adebayo. KZ Okpala and Moe Harkless haven’t proven to be suitable replacements for Jae Crowder. Kelly Olynyk is shooting a career-low from 3-point range. Hopefully, Achiuwa can build on his positive development this first half of the season and continue to grow into a solid rotation player.