The OG Anunoby-Precious Achiuwa combo is the Knicks' secret playoff weapon

Kristian Winfield, New York Daily News on

Published in Basketball

Anunoby and Achiuwa have played 201 minutes together since arriving in New York in the trade with the Raptors. The Knicks are outscoring opponents by 28.8 points per 100 possessions in those minutes — 18.6 points per 100 possessions better than the team’s next-best two-man unit.

No player has a better net rating alongside Anunoby than Achiuwa. The Knicks are holding their opponents to just 90 points for every 100 possessions the two former Raptors spend on the floor together.

For what it’s worth, Anunoby is part of each of the five-best two-man lineups the Knicks have deployed since the trade.

Anunoby and Achiuwa, however, have played half the number of minutes as Anunoby and Josh Hart and a third of the number of minutes as Anunoby and Brunson.

This is no coincidence.

The two were teammates ever since the Miami Heat traded Achiuwa to the Raptors ahead of the 2021-22 season. In fact, Anunoby went to bat publicly for Achiuwa while the versatile forward struggled to find his footing in the Knicks’ rotation early after the mid-season trade.

Anunoby’s message: Be patient. Achiuwa is talented. Things will fall into place with time.

He was right. The Knicks have figured out how to deploy their reserve forward. Thibodeau has often lauded Achiuwa’s versatility, his ability to guard multiple positions and be a presence both on the glass and protecting the paint. The sporadic offense can be an added bonus, but nothing sums Achiuwa’s impact more than the minutes he played while Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein watched from the bench late on Sunday.

“Precious can guard the perimeter,” Anunoby told The Daily News after Achiuwa’s game-winning stop on DeRozan. “He can switch one through five.”

Achiuwa has cemented his spot in Thibodeau’s nine-man rotation. The defensive potential is too good, there’s too much juice left to squeeze out of an unflappable defensive combination of former Raptors.

And with Alec Burks virtually out of the rotation since the beginning of April, all signs point toward Achiuwa locking in the ninth and final playoff rotation spot.

“When teams go small, what Precious gives you is the ability to switch,” said Thibodeau. “So I think that’s important for us as well. And then he had a big put-back, too. Did some really good things for us.”


A good thing for the Knicks, who stand to benefit from the Anunoby-Achiuwa connection, now in its fourth season and counting.

A lesser defender — or a weaker bond between two teammates — would have created a more advantageous situation for DeRozan, who got the matchup he wanted, shedding Anunoby in crunch time for what he perceived as a more favorable matchup.

Little did he know he played right into the defense’s hands.

“For us, [switching is] always automatic,” Achiuwa told The Daily News. “What’s [OG] hears my voice, I’m coming up and I’m calling out the screen. He just knows he’s switching right away. It’s not like it’s a one-game thing. We’ve been doing this for years of playing together, so we have that chemistry on that end.”

Switching defensively will be key in the second round: One way or another, the Knicks will have their hands full. Be it a date with Joel Embiid‘s Philadelphia 76ers or the combination of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo on a Miami Heat team cruising for the playoffs: The Knicks will need to be ready for a quality opponent in Round 1.

Anunoby’s reputation as a defensive stopper has long preceded his arrival in New York, but Achiuwa has, too, arrived as a staunch defender. He’s arrived as part of a playoff rotation that, without Julius Randle (shoulder surgery) will need to rely on defense more than ever.

Just like the Knicks relied on Achiuwa to get a stop on DeRozan on the final possession of the regular season.

He delivered in overtime. Anunoby delivered at the end of regulation. And the Knicks are off to the playoffs, with a secret weapon in their back pocket.

“We’re very similar when it comes to defensive capabilities in a lot of ways, so we just always talk about switching,” Achiuwa told The News. “For both of us, it’s always easier: We have size and the mobility to move sideways, up-ways, whatever the case is. That’s how we’ve always played whenever we’re on the floor together.”


©2024 New York Daily News. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus