The abbreviated offseason amid the COVID-19 pandemic did not include a summer league or allow for weeks of workouts in the Miami Heat’s player development program. Instead, big man Cheap Precious Achiuwa Jersey began his rookie season just five weeks after the NBA Draft.
Achiuwa, 21, only had two weeks of team practices and two preseason games to prepare for his first regular-season NBA game.
But Achiuwa, who was selected with the 20th overall pick in last month’s draft, is apparently a fast learner because he already looks comfortable in his role off the Heat’s bench, averaging 9.5 points on 72.7 percent shooting, three rebounds and one assist in 16.6 minutes in the first two games of the season. Miami has outscored opponents by 10 points in the 33 minutes Achiuwa has played.
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“He has really improved just in the two weeks that we’ve worked with him,” coach Erik Spoelstra said, with the Heat back at practice Sunday in preparation for Tuesday’s home matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks. “We all can’t imagine how much further he’d be if he had a normal summer league and full summer player development program and September prep. He’s a quick study and he’s very diligent and committed to the work and studying film and getting with the coaches. He picks up things very quickly. That’s probably a skill onto itself.”
What exactly is Achiuwa’s role? It’s similar to the one Heat All-Star center Cheap Bam Adebayo Jersey had as a rookie in the 2017-18 season, when he averaged 6.9 points on 51.2 percent shooting, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 19.8 minutes per game.
Achiuwa’s (6-8, 225) role is to provide energy off of Miami’s bench on both ends of the court. He helps the offense as a solid screener and will score most of his points as an athletic roll man, off offensive rebounds or in transition, and Achiuwa is already a big part of the Heat’s defensive scheme when he’s on the court because of his ability to defend multiple positions.
“I’m here to play winning basketball,” said Achiuwa, who finished Friday’s Christmas Day win over the New Orleans Pelicans with 11 points, three rebounds, two assists and one block in 19 minutes. “Whatever it takes to win games, that’s what I’m down to do. Whatever is asked of me by the coaching staff, that’s what I’m willing to do, 100 percent. That’s what I’m doing. They’ve asked me to do the stuff that I’m doing, and I’m doing it to the best of my abilities.”
Achiuwa has been effective in his role to start the season, with each of his eight made baskets coming from inside the restricted area. He has yet to attempt a shot from outside the paint, as three of his eight makes have came on rolls to the basket and one has come on a second-chance opportunity off an offensive rebound.
Five of Achiuwa’s eight baskets have come on assists from veteran guard Cheap Goran Dragic Jersey, and three of Dragic’s assists have come on pick-and-roll sets with Achiuwa diving to the rim.
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“One of the first times I walked into the facility, he was one of the first guys that said something to me,” Achiuwa said of Dragic. “I think the first thing he actually said was, ‘Hey, I need to work out with you.’ That was the first thing he said the first time he saw me. He was like, ‘We need to work on that pick and roll lob.’ That was the first conversation he ever had with me.
“On the practice court, his seat is right next to mine so we’re always in constant communication. He’s always telling me what to do, angles, reads, stuff like that, just positioning. I really, really appreciate him a lot just because his voice is constantly in my ear.”
Achiuwa’s impressive defensive versatility was on display late in Friday’s win over the Pelicans, as he served as 6-11 center Steven Adams’ primary defender for a few minutes in the fourth quarter and then switched onto 6-6 forward Zion Williamson later in the period.
It’s a very small sample size, but the Heat has posted a quality defensive rating of 97.2 with Achiuwa on the court to begin the season. To put that number into perspective, the Bucks finished last season with the NBA’s top defensive rating at 102.5 points allowed per 100 possessions.
“He’s like a sponge,” Heat center Cheap Meyers Leonard Jersey said of Achiuwa. “He’s very attentive. He wants to be better. He wants to be that versatile player who can guard like Bam, switch pick and rolls, roll to the rim on the offensive end and play above the rim with a guy like Goran and the rest of our guards. So I think that if he keeps it simple, he’s going to be just fine.”
For now, it seems like Achiuwa has earned himself a consistent role in the Heat’s rotation as a rookie. How? In large part because he knows his role.
And it helps to be playing as part of a second unit that includes experienced veterans like Cheap Andre Iguodala Jersey, Cheap Avery Bradley Jersey and Dragic. The four-man combination of Achiuwa, Bradley, Dragic and Iguodala was a plus-9 in the 11 minutes they played together Friday.
“It’s a great luxury, particularly with that unit, that he can lean on the veteran experience of Goran, Avery, Andre, who are super-high IQ players on both ends of the court,” Spoelstra said. “And they communicate. And they can talk him into spots, and tell him where to go, what to do, and where he can just play to his strengths right now.”
JIMMY BUTLER INJURY UPDATE
Spoelstra said after Sunday’s practice that there’s no new update on Heat All-Star wing Cheap Jimmy Butler Jersey injured ankle. After playing 16 first-half minutes, Butler missed the second half of Friday’s win over the Pelicans because of right ankle stiffness.
“I don’t have an update today,” Spoelstra said. “We’ll just continue to get him treatment, and then we’ll put together a plan.”
The Heat will practice again Monday before hosting the Bucks on Tuesday as part of a two-game back-to-back “series” against Milwaukee that ends with another matchup between the two teams on Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. Butler’s status for those game has yet to be determined, with more clarity expected Monday when the Heat is required by the NBA to issue a 5:30 p.m. injury report.
Butler tweaked his right ankle during Wednesday’s season-opening loss to the Orlando Magic.
“Each situation is different,” Spoelstra said when asked whether the Heat will take a cautious approach with Butler. “Each player and each injury, and you want to treat it with most intelligent response. I thought that was a no-brainer the other night. And then we’ll just see how his body responds with these days of treatment.”