Wizards interviewed Precious Achiuwa, a top big in the draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Wizards desperately need rim protection and rebounding, so it's no surprise they interviewed Memphis big man Precious Achiuwa in the pre-draft process. The AAC player of the year revealed the news while meeting with reporters via video conference on Tuesday as part of the draft combine.
Achiuwa, 21, is 6-foot-9, can run the floor and play above the rim. He averaged 15.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.1 steals per game as a freshman this past season.
Achiuwa is projected to go late in the lottery but could be an option for the Wizards at ninth overall, depending on how much they covet his skillset. Washington was 30th in defensive rating, 28th in rebounding and 24th in blocks this season among the 30 NBA teams.
Achiuwa feels he can help in those areas immediately.
"I think defense is something I can translate right away to an NBA team," he said. "Just bringing a lot of energy to the team, really being able to switch on ball-screens, defending multiple positions and rebounding well."
Achiuwa pointed to specific teams around the NBA to demonstrate how he feels his style of play is well-suited for where the league is going with smaller, more athletic big men. He mentioned the Heat and Bam Adebayo and how the Raptors and Lakers have recently adapted by playing traditional forwards at the five.
"That's the trend and what basketball is kind of turning into. I'm very, very comfortable playing the small-ball five," Achiuwa said.
The Wizards do not have an ideal option as a small-ball five at the moment. Rui Hachimura is close to being the right size for it but doesn't protect the rim well enough. Thomas Bryant can spread the floor but does not fit the prototype defensively, either.
With his quickness, length and track record as a defender, Achiuwa could fit the bill nicely and give the Wizards an element they don't currently have. He also mentioned wanting to play for a fast team, and the Wizards were seventh in pace last season.
"I like playing fast, and go up and down a lot," he said.
Achiuwa may not be projected to go in the Wizards' range, but if they chose him at No. 9 it wouldn't be all that big of a surprise. They took Hachimura last year when some thought it was a reach based on mock drafts, and that worked out. If Achiuwa is the right guy for them, taking him at nine could be justified.