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Miami Heat 2020-21 player review: Precious Achiuwa

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The Heat’s first round pick had an up-and-down rookie season, but there’s potential.

NBA: Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

It’s now officially the offseason for the Miami Heat, who were swept out of the first round in the NBA playoffs by the Milwaukee Bucks — losing their four games by a combined 82 points.

Before we deep dive into everything regarding the future months for this team, let’s discuss the Heat players that played last season and finished on the active roster.

This series will be conducted in alphabetical order by the player’s last name, so the first man up will be Precious Achiuwa! We will do a brief summary of their season, key 2020-21 numbers, their best game of the COVID-shortened campaign and what’s next for them for the future.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Brief Summary:

2020-21 stats:

  • 5.0 PPG
  • 3.4 RPG
  • 54.4 field goal percentage
  • 55.0 true shooting percentage
  • 14.2 player efficiency rating

Achiuwa played one season of college ball at Memphis, earning the American Athletic Conference’s Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year awards. He was the Heat’s first-round selection — 20th overall — in the 2020 NBA Draft. Due to the shortened offseason because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Achiuwa did not have a Summer League.

He was in the rotation for the first chunk of the season — averaging 15.9 minutes in the team’s first 22 games. To some degree, the results were rocky; to be fair to Achiuwa, he was thrown into the fire as a rookie and was expected to bridge the non-Adebayo minutes well. That didn’t occur, ultimately falling out of the rotation for Dewayne Dedmon, a mid-season free-agent signing.

Achiuwa possessed a minimal role at the season’s conclusion. He got 12 combined late-game minutes in three playoff games, tallying seven points with six rebounds. The 6-foot-8 forward is entering his first full offseason and looks to improve multiple facets of his game and unlock some of his untapped potential.

Numbers to note:

50.9 - One of Achiuwa’s most glaring weaknesses is his free-throw shooting, hitting just 50.9 percent of his attempts this season. I’m no shooting expert, but there wasn’t any mechanical issue or weird form that I saw. For Achiuwa, it might be a level of comfort — theoretically, the more his clock ticks, the more comfortable he’ll get. So that might not be a long-term issue, but recall that Achiuwa didn’t shoot well from the charity stripe when he was at Memphis either — knocking down just 59.9 percent of his six attempts a game. It’s hard to decipher what the actual problem is, but I’m anticipating a healthier free-throw percentage from Achiuwa as his career moves along.

4.2 - Let’s get back to the positives! Achiuwa averaged 4.2 second-chance points per 100 possessions — finishing second on the team behind Dewayne Dedmon (9.1) — per Philosophically, Miami typically keys in on transition defense — finishing second-worst in the league in offensive rebounding rate (22.3 percent) while placing amongst the top-10 in transition points allowed per each transition play (2.7), per Cleaning the Glass. Achiuwa’s one of the exceptions. He is second on the team in offensive rebounding rate (9.7 percent) and hauled-in 3.6 offensive boards per 36 minutes. It’s clear that when he’s at his peak offensively, Achiuwa’s gifted motor, precise positioning and quick instincts allows him to hound the offensive glass due and award his team extra possessions — and points.

94.7 - Those who kept tabs with Achiuwa throughout his one-year stint at Memphis and in his rookie season have an idea that he hasn’t featured the modern-day floor-spacing chops that everyone craves. His developmental path could lead him in that direction, but time will tell; the neophyte hasn’t reached that point, figuratively and literally. Achiuwa attempted 94.7 percent of his shots inside the painted area in his rookie campaign, including nearly 80 percent inside the restricted area for contested layups, tip-ins and the explosive two-handed slams. Stats

Achiuwa said in his exit press conference Monday that his jumpshot will “be a big emphasis” this offseason. Achiuwa was never harped-on to make or even attempt many jumpers, but the budding 21-year-old could follow the path of Bam Adebayo — whom he was compared to in the pre-draft process — by slowly expanding his range each season. It will be important to develop a mid-range jumper as soon as possible for both his personal growth, as well as the team’s.

That said, this impromptu 16-footer he cashed in was pretty nifty.

Best game?

May 16, 2021 vs. Detroit Pistons

In the Heat’s season finale, Achiuwa, starting in his fourth career game in place of Adebayo (rest), put together his strongest performance of the season. He recorded his third career double-double — finishing with 23 points (on 10-of-16 shooting), 10 rebounds, two steals and one block. He flashed many of the same attributes that made him an intriguing prospect out of Memphis — including his rim-running and explosiveness as a vertical spacer.

What’s next?

No Summer League coupled with no Sioux Falls Skyforce G-League season affected Achiuwa’s development and adjustment to the NBA. As I mentioned above, he was forced into the fire with roller coaster results. So a Summer League trip this fall could expedite his acclimation to the professional game against similar talent. Though he hasn’t officially decided yet, he might play in the Tokyo Olympics for Nigeria, too. Experience!

With Miami’s situation at the backup 5 entering the offseason, it could be a big summer for Achiuwa. It wouldn’t be surprising if they re-signed Dedmon — which makes it more challenging to find a considerable playing time for Achiuwa. That said, a breakout sophomore season could follow if he takes the necessary leaps during the summer in multiple facets of his game.

It’s worth mentioning his value as an asset as well. If I were to hypothetically create a list regarding the potential trade chips this offseason, Achiuwa would be at or around the top of that list — given his affordability, years of control, youth and untapped potential. With the Heat being the only team getting swept out of the first round, an ongoing talking point will be acquiring more help for their two max stars: Jimmy Butler and Adebayo. With a now dried-out free agency class — the trade market might serve a more purposeful route to acquire top-tier talent, if the front office swings for big fish.

Pat Riley and cap guru Andy Elisburg, among others, will have two months to contemplate its roster construction, so it’s impossible to predict right now but Achiuwa’s name will certainly be floated in those discussions.