Precious Achiuwa

Raptors Notes: Achiuwa, Young, Hernangomez, Barnes, Trent

Raptors big man Precious Achiuwa has been sidelined since November 9 after sustaining partial ligament tears in his right ankle and will remain on the shelf for the foreseeable future. Head coach Nick Nurse told reporters on Monday that it will be another two or three weeks before the team even has a clearer sense of a timeline for Achiuwa’s return, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca.

One silver lining of Achiuwa’s injury is that it has given two other Raptors bigs an opportunity to prove their mettle as regular contributors.

Veteran forward/center Thaddeus Young has averaged 10.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.1 APG, and 1.6 SPG in eight games (26.7 MPG) since Achiuwa went down, while forward Juancho Hernangomez has averaged 6.6 PPG and 6.5 RPG in the same eight games (24.2 MPG). Neither player was a rotation mainstay during the early part of the season.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Young and Hernangomez were in the Raptors’ starting five on Monday vs. Cleveland, even with forward Pascal Siakam back in the lineup for the first time in 10 games. As Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca writes, Gary Trent Jr. came off the bench for the first time this season and just the fourth time as a Raptor, while Scottie Barnes was a reserve for the first time in his NBA career.
  • Nurse didn’t say whether the new-look lineup would stick beyond Monday’s game, but explained to reporters that he wanted to maintain some continuity and not have so many players who were coming off absences (Siakam, Barnes) or struggling (Trent) in his starting five.
  • While both Barnes and Trent said on Monday that they were fine with the change, Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca suggests that Barnes “didn’t seem thrilled about his demotion” to the bench. When he received some push-back on his interpretation, Lewenberg posted the video clip of Barnes addressing the move, tweeting that the reigning Rookie of the Year “didn’t sound like somebody who was psyched about his (temporary) move to the bench.” Lewenberg expects Barnes to be back in the starting five in short order if he shows he’s healthy and can be more consistent.

Eastern Notes: VanVleet, Barnes, Allen, Irving, Udoka

Raptors guard Fred VanVleet will miss his second straight game on Monday due to a non-COVID illness, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. The Raptors are facing the struggling Pistons in Detroit. Forwards Pascal Siakam and Precious Achiuwa are also out of action, while big man Khem Birch is listed as questionable.

We have more from the Eastern Conference

  • Scottie Barnes had a rough shooting night in Indiana on Saturday and the Raptors need more from their dynamic second-year forward, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. Barnes is averaging 13.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game but he has only reached the 20-point mark once despite the team’s injuries. Teammate Thaddeus Young says Barnes will break out soon. “Sometimes guys have a bad streak of games, or sometimes they have a bad start to the season then they take off at some point,” he said. “Things will change; they always do.”
  • Jarrett Allen missed Sunday’s game due to ankle soreness but coach J.B. Bickerstaff indicated prior to the game the Cavaliers center will likely return this week, Kelsey Russo of The Athletic tweets. “The thinking behind it is having today will give him like four days of rest before Milwaukee (on Wednesday),” Bickerstaff said. “It’s just been sore and he’s been powering through it.”
  • Nets guard Kyrie Irving sent out a tweet on Sunday related to his suspension, Brian Lewis of the New York Post relays. Irving stated that he was not trying to incite racial disharmony or prejudice. “I was not put here on earth to participate in any religious/political wars or incite racial disharmony/prejudice within communities,” he wrote. “We are all equal under the sun and I am here to participate in the building of an Equal world and follow the Word from the Most High/GOD/YAH.”
  • The Celtics were willing to let Ime Udoka take the Nets job without demanding any compensation in return, according to Jay King of The Athletic. Now, the organization still has to decide what to do with Udoka after the season unless another suitor comes along. It seems likely Udoka will never coach the team again, King adds.

Precious Achiuwa Out Indefinitely With Ankle Injury

Raptors big man Precious Achiuwa has suffered partial ligament tears in his right ankle, the team announced today in a press release. According to Toronto, Achiuwa will wear a walking boot for the next 10 days and has been ruled out indefinitely.

The 23-year-old underwent an MRI last night after Toronto’s win over Houston which confirmed the injury, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link).

The 20th overall pick of the 2020 draft, Achiuwa has averaged 8.8 points and a career-high 7.0 rebounds in 12 games (20.4 minutes) for the 7-5 Raptors this season, though his three-point percentage has cratered in the early going — he shot a very solid 35.9% from deep in 2021/22 and is at 17.9% thus far.

The Raptors picked up their ’23/24 team option on the fourth year of his rookie contract last month, so he will be eligible for a rookie scale extension next summer.

Achiuwa is an important bench cog for a Toronto team that is already shorthanded in the frontcourt, with All-NBA forward Pascal Siakam (adductor strain) and center Khem Birch (right knee) currently sidelined. As Lewenberg notes (via Twitter), rookie center Christian Koloko, big man Chris Boucher, and veteran forwards Thaddeus Young and Otto Porter are likely to receive an uptick in playing time with Achiuwa out.

It’s unclear how long Achiuwa will be out of action, since indefinitely is a vague timeline (the Raptors might not know), but it sounds like he could be out for at least several weeks given the nature of his injury.

Atlantic Notes: Harris, Udoka, Irving, Vaughn, Achiuwa

Sixers forward Tobias Harris is seeing his role change again after a recent injury to James Harden, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. With Harden sidelined for about a month, Harris is being asked to carry more of the scoring load.

“Evolving into what the situation is when presented,” Harris said. “Sometimes that is going to be a space on the floor. And obviously at times, it’s limited play calls. But you just find other ways to adapt.”

Harris is averaging 15.0 PPG through 11 games this season, but that number has risen to 22.0 in the two games without Harden. He’s also taking on more play-making duties, setting up teammates for open three-point shots with drives to the basket.

“I’ve always prided myself on being a very good team basketball player in the half-court offense,” Harris said. “That’s something I was always able to do and be a part of.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets general manager Sean Marks refused to provide details when asked before tonight’s game why the team didn’t hire Ime Udoka, tweets Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. Marks also said there’s no update on Kyrie Irving‘s suspension, adding that he hasn’t talked directly with Irving, only to his representatives. Jacque Vaughn also said he hasn’t spoken to Irving (Twitter link). Vaughn explained that he wasn’t sure about his role in the Irving scenario while he was an interim coach, but that could change now that he’s been officially hired.
  • Because he’s only signed through the 2023/24 season, Vaughn is effectively undergoing an “audition” for a longer-term role with the Nets, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link). Wojnarowski adds that if management is happy with the job Vaughn does, he could get an extension at the end of the season. Woj also addresses Irving’s suspension, saying “there’s still a lot in play” regarding when he might return.
  • Raptors coach Nick Nurse is emphasizing defense to Precious Achiuwa, tweets Michael Grange of Sportsnet. Nurse had a one-on-one film session with Achiuwa today, showing him defensive mistakes that he made. Nurse projected Achiuwa to play 25 to 30 minutes per night before the season began, but said he has to become more reliable defensively for that to happen.

Atlantic Notes: Boucher, Achiuwa, Curry, Sixers, Mazzulla

While Chris Boucher would rather have been playing in the Raptors‘ first three games, the veteran forward/center found a silver lining in having to sit out with a hamstring injury, as Doug Smith of The Toronto Star relays.

“To be honest with you, I feel like it was good for me just to see what I can bring to the team, sitting down and watching,” Boucher said on Monday before returning to the Raptors’ lineup in Miami. “If I was playing and we were losing games, I probably wouldn’t see as much.”

Boucher got into quick foul trouble in his season debut on Monday, picking up five fouls in just 12 minutes of action. But he was effective in his limited role, scoring 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in a Raptors victory.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Raptors got a big night out of Precious Achiuwa against his old team on Monday, as he grabbed 22 rebounds against the Heat. While the team isn’t expecting regular 22-rebound nights from Achiuwa, head coach Nick Nurse wants to see him produce more consistently. “I always say you can play good, like one out of three games, right? It’s got to get bumped up to two out of four, then three out of five,” Nurse said, per Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “No one is going to play great every night but we got to start making some progression where there’s some consistency there.”
  • Nets sharpshooter Seth Curry, who continues to work his way back from offseason ankle surgery, is getting closer to making his season debut, according to head coach Steve Nash. “(Curry) traveled and we’re just monitoring him still. He’s doing well,” Nash said on Monday, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “I’d say he’s out for Wednesday, but we’ll see whether Thursday, Saturday or the subsequent games. It’s coming soon.”
  • After averaging an NBA-low 11.3 bench points in their first three games (all losses), the Sixers got 36 points from their reserves in their first win of the season over Indiana on Monday, as Joel Embiid and James Harden worked to get the bench players involved, writes Rich Hofmann of The Athletic.
  • In an in-depth profile, Chris Mannix of SI.com takes a closer look at Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla, including revisiting his arrests as a student at West Virginia in 2008 and 2009. “I’m not perfect,” Mazzulla said. “I made the mistakes. I’ve worked to reinvent myself. I know who I am and I know the mistakes that I made. It’s important to be secure about that if you want to be authentic with people.””

Raptors Pick Up 2023/24 Options On Barnes, Flynn, Achiuwa

11:52am: The Raptors have officially announced that they’ve exercised their 2023/24 options on Barnes, Flynn, and Achiuwa, locking in approximately $16.26MM in total salary for the trio in ’23/24.


11:42am: The Raptors have exercised their team option on guard Malachi Flynn for the 2023/24 season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), and are doing the same for their ’23/24 option on big man Precious Achiuwa, tweets Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca.

The 29th overall pick in the 2020 draft, Flynn has appeared in 91 games during his first two seasons as a Raptor, averaging 6.0 PPG and 2.3 APG in 16.1 MPG during that time, with a shooting line of .380/.326/.750. He’s currently recovering from a left cheekbone fracture and will wear a face mask to open the season.

As Murphy notes, Flynn’s fourth-year option wasn’t a lock to be exercised, since he has yet to establish himself as a regular rotation player in Toronto. However, the Raptors’ decision to guarantee his $3,873,025 salary for 2023/24 suggests they still believe he can become one.

Achiuwa, meanwhile, enjoyed a mini-breakout season after being acquired from Miami in last summer’s Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade. He averaged 9.1 PPG and 6.5 RPG in 73 games (23.6 MPG) for the Raptors in 2021/22, making 35.9% of his three-pointers.

Achiuwa was also Toronto’s most-used reserve in the team’s playoff series vs. Philadelphia, averaging 27.8 minutes per contest despite coming off the bench in five of six games. His fourth-year option for 2023/24 is worth $4,379,527.

The Raptors also hold a third-year option on Scottie Barnes, which will pay the reigning Rookie of the Year $8,008,680 in 2023/24. That option is a lock to be exercised before the October 31 deadline, but it’s not technically official yet, tweets Murphy.

Raptors Notes: Roster Battle, Boucher, Porter, J. Jackson, Achiuwa

With Dalano Banton likely to make the team after a strong preseason, the Raptors appear to have a three-man battle for their final roster spot, writes Lori Ewing of The Toronto StarJustin ChampagnieJosh Jackson and D.J. Wilson are all in the running and Friday’s preseason finale is their last chance to make an impression.

The competition is particularly stressful for Champagnie, who missed the first three preseason games with pain in his hip, Ewing notes. He played only eight minutes Sunday, recording one point and one rebound. Champagnie, who appeared in 36 games for Toronto as a rookie last season, estimates that he is 90 to 95 percent recovered from the hip issue.

“I sensed some urgency from Justin,” coach Nick Nurse said. “I think some other guys just kind of let their game each day do what it does. It’s hard to get all excited one game and be not so excited the next because they play good and then not so good. Then they come back in practice and light it up again and get you thinking again. (Making cuts) is always a tricky thing. We’ll see how it all shakes out. I think there are still a lot of questions to be answered.”

There’s more from Toronto:

  • A hamstring injury will keep Chris Boucher out of the lineup for Friday’s game, which is in his hometown of Montreal, Ewing adds. Free agency addition Otto Porter Jr. will also miss the game with an injured hamstring, and Nurse said he’s not certain if either player will be ready for the regular season opener next Wednesday.
  • Jackson is hoping to revive his career with the Raptors after playing for four teams in his first five NBA seasons, per Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. Jackson takes responsibility for not living up to the expectations that came along with being the fourth pick in the 2017 draft. “I can’t say that every organization that I’ve been a part of has been great in helping its players succeed but, with that, what I have learned is you’ve got to be the one to make sure that you’re getting everything that you need,” he said. “You have to make sure you’re working on the things you need to work on because, at the end of the day, it is your career, it’s not theirs.”
  • Sixth Man of the Year or Most Improved Player honors might be within reach for Precious Achiuwa after his impressive performance during the second half of last season, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN. “[The accolades are] something that [will] just happen based on how I play,” Achiuwa said. “Control what I can control. Your shots aren’t always going to go in but being able to play defense and bring effort, that’s something you can control every game.”

Raptors Notes: VanVleet, Achiuwa, Boucher, Depth

Fred VanVleet made changes to his diet as well as his strength and conditioning regimen in order to stay healthy while playing heavy minutes, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. Lewenberg notes that VanVleet has played the second-most minutes per game in the NBA over the past three seasons (trailing only James Harden), and 47 of his 55 missed games over that span have come in the second half of seasons.

It’s a 12-month season now, year ‘round,” said a noticeably slimmer VanVleet. “Hopefully I can stay on this regimen the rest of my career. There’s always gonna be new changes and things you have to adjust and adapt to as you try to grow. I’ve had a hell of a run so far, so to continue to try to keep growing is going to be challenging every year but I’m up for it.”

Head coach Nick Nurse said the team hopes to reduce VanVleet’s workload in 2022/23, but it’s more complicated than just following a prescribed plan.

It’s not easy,” Nurse said, per Lewenberg. “When you got a super competitive guy who’s playing great and he wants to play, to rest him, to just say, ‘Sorry, it’s your rest time, we don’t care what’s happening on the floor right now, it’s your rest time,’ that’s hard to do. But I think we learned a lot about how we can shift our team around without him in there and I think that we’re going to need to be able to do that. I hope we can get it done.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Precious Achiuwa‘s development is one of the keys to Toronto’s standing in the East, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. Achiuwa made an immediate impact as a defender in his first year with the Raptors in ’21/22, but struggled on offense. However, he had a big second half last season, and if he can build upon that, the Raptors will be that much more dangerous, Grange notes. Nurse says the third-year big man has impressed early on in training camp. “I think that he’s improving all the time. I think he had a great especially last half. I’ve already talked about I think he had a great spring, summer, fall so far, and he’s looked really good during the first three practices,” said Nurse. “So you know, I think a good step forward for him is expected by him, first and foremost, which is the most important, and by all of us, yeah.”
  • Both Nurse and Chris Boucher are hoping for more consistency from the “really unique” big man, who signed a three-year, $35MM contract to remain with the Raptors. “There are some nights when he’s picking and popping and not hitting those, and he can’t live in that world, that’s always just extra for us,” Nurse said, per Lori Ewing of The Toronto Star. “(He has to) continue to run, continue to crash the glass, continue to block shots and continue to be that spirit, that force of spirit that he is out there and playing hard.”
  • In another article for Sportsnet, Grange writes that the Raptors are more confident in their depth after adding Otto Porter and Juancho Hernangomez in free agency, plus having a full season of Thaddeus Young, who signed an extension shortly before free agency opened. Young players like Malachi Flynn, Dalano Banton and Justin Champagnie could also be important depth pieces if they continue to improve, Grange adds.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Aldridge, Achiuwa, Nets

Following Danilo Gallinari‘s ACL tear and Robert Williams‘ knee surgery, it remains to be seen whether the Celtics will look to fortify their frontcourt with a free agent addition. If they do, it’s possible veteran big man LaMarcus Aldridge will be one of their targets.

During a TV appearance on Tuesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link) said the Celtics showed “a little interest” in Aldridge earlier in the offseason. Dwight Howard, Hassan Whiteside, Blake Griffin, and DeMarcus Cousins are among the other centers and power forwards who remain unsigned with training camps just days away.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston considers whether the Celtics need to add any more veteran depth to their frontcourt. He also weighs the idea of Grant Williams moving into Boston’s starting lineup and wonders if Robert Williams‘ health will be a long-term concern.
  • Raptors big man Precious Achiuwa believes he has done a lot of growing up since being sent from Miami to Toronto in the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade in 2021, per Colin Udoh of ESPN. Following an offseason trip to his home country of Nigeria and a summer of working out with his trainers, Achiuwa says he’s “really focused” and has a new mindset entering the 2022/23 season. “I mean, something happened to him where he now understands what playing in the NBA is about, and he is on a mission,” head coach Nick Nurse said of Achiuwa.
  • The Nets have quietly constructed a roster that is deeper and more talented – especially on the wing – than any of the other iterations of the club since Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving arrived in 2019, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. However, Vardon cautions that the volatility of the team’s stars and the strength of the Eastern Conference may complicate Brooklyn’s efforts to seriously contend for a title.

Atlantic Notes: Trent, Achiuwa, Morris, Barrett

While Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes look like safe bets to be part of the Raptors‘ starting lineup this fall, the fifth spot may come down to Gary Trent Jr. vs. Precious Achiuwa. And, as Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes, both players will be motivated to have big years — Trent can become an unrestricted free agent next offseason if he declines his 2023/24 player option, while Achiuwa will become eligible for a rookie scale extension in 2023.

If the Raptors decide Achiuwa’s size makes him a better fit for that starting role, Trent is still capable of maintaining or improving his value while coming off the bench, Koreen argues. As a sixth man, Trent’s usage rate would likely be higher than it would be as a starter. Throw in the fact that he’ll only be 24 years old next summer and projects to be part of a playoff team, and Trent should be in line for a nice payday whether he’s a starter or a reserve in 2022/23.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Nets‘ one-year deal with Markieff Morris won’t be guaranteed, according to reports from ESPN and Brian Lewis of The New York Post. We’ll have to wait until after the signing is official to confirm whether Morris’ salary will be fully non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed — either way, he seems like a good bet to earn a regular season roster spot if he looks healthy in training camp.
  • There aren’t many NBA executives who have a “down-the-middle” take on Knicks forward RJ Barrett, according to Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, who says some talent evaluators view him as a future All-Star while others question his shooting ability, his decision making, and/or his touch around the basket. Vecenie explains within his article why he’s a believer in Barrett’s long-term potential.
  • For more on Barrett’s extension and how it affects Donovan Mitchell trade talks, be sure to check out our Knicks page, which has been busy so far this week.