Atlantic Notes: Achiuwa, Raptors, Claxton, Thomas, Knicks

Raptors big man Precious Achiuwa suffered a left groin strain in training camp and will miss Sunday’s preseason opener, per the team (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of The 24-year-old will be reevaluated next week.

We’ll have to wait for more information on the severity of the injury, but it’s a disappointing development for Achiuwa, who is eligible for a rookie scale extension until October 23.

The forward/center averaged 9.2 PPG and 6.0 RPG on .485/.269/.702 shooting in 55 games (20.7 MPG) in 2022/23. Hopefully the groin strain is minor and doesn’t negatively impact his fourth season.

Here’s more from the Atlantic:

  • The Raptors‘ success — both now and going forward — depends on the development of Scottie Barnes and his relationship with new head coach Darko Rajakovic, according to Michael Grange of Rajakovic said Toronto is going to lean into Barnes’ play-making ability, but the team knows he needs to improve in other areas as well. As Grange writes, the two have clicked since they first met. “I feel like we’re gonna be on a long ride together,” Barnes said of Rajakovic. “We’re going to make amazing things happen.”
  • Nets center Nic Claxton, who is on an expiring $9.6MM contract, is embracing high expectations following a breakout fourth season, writes Dan Martin of The New York Post. Claxton averaged career highs in virtually every statistical category in 2022/23 and has put on muscle for ’23/24. “We have a lot of guys here that if we win collectively, they have things that they can prove,” Spencer Dinwiddie said Thursday. “The thing I’d love to see most is Nic get his $100 million (contract), because I’ve seen him come in the league.”
  • While Claxton is looking to improve upon his already-strong performance from last season for the Nets, the fate of third-year guard Cam Thomas is much less certain, per Head coach Jacque Vaughn says the team won’t be relying on isolation scoring this season, which is Thomas’ greatest strength. “He does have a skill of being able to play isolation basketball and get a bucket. That’s proven,” said Vaughn. “I don’t think we can play isolation basketball and win basketball games on a consistent basis. I think this team is built around the versatility and the depth of the team, and we’ll have to use all that, while also agreeing and notifying the rest of the group that there are some individuals who (are) going to have the basketball in their hands and they have a talent. (Thomas) has a talent that’s going to be used on both ends of the floor, and that’s what he’s going to be asked of.”
  • The Knicks improved their depth by trading for Josh Hart last season (he signed an extension this offseason after picking up his player option) and signing Donte DiVincenzo in free agency. However, as Fred Katz writes for The Athletic, there are only so many minutes to go around. How Hart, DiVincenzo, RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes perform defensively might determine who among that group will be closing on a given night, according to Katz.
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