Precious Achiuwa is, at his best, a fantastic defender. Yet with him on the floor the Toronto Raptors have been a worse team on the defensive end in two of his three seasons as a Raptor, including much worse this year.
How can both be true? Euclid knows best: angles.
Consider the pick and roll. Let's pretend there are three defensive approaches for the screener defender. There are far more, of course, but at the simplest level the screener defender can drop far below the screen and wait in the paint, rise to the level of the screen, or switch onto the ball-handler.
Two of those involve carefully selecting angles, shifting along a plane, and ultimately letting math ward the offensive player from the rim. The other involves being a terrific athlete. Guess in which category Achiuwa thrives?
According to Second Spectrum, among 32 players to have switched at least 50 picks this season as the screener defender, Achiuwa allows the sixth-lowest points per chance, at 0.809. That's very good! Among 69 players to have played drop on at least 50 picks this season as the screener defender, Achiuwa allows the 34th-lowest points per chance, at 0.946. That's very average!
Consider these two plays.
Here, Achiuwa shows his hand very early against the ball-handler, allowing a quick bounce pass to the screener. Then he chooses a spot to recover to the screener that is consistently behind the driving line. He meets him too early and gives ground the whole way to the rim, offering no meaningful contest. That is three failed chances to choose an impactful angle and stick to it.
Now observe this play within the lens of angles.