When news broke that the New York Knicks acquired a package centered around OG Anunoby in exchange for RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, and a 2024 second round pick, several eyebrows were raised by both fans and pundits alike.
Did they give up too much for a player who has never come close to making an NBA All-Star team?
Was it too soon to give up on a 23-year-old Barrett and a 24-year-old Quickley?
Would New York be left with enough scoring outside of the duo of Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle?
There were many questions that surfaced and a few more that remain unanswered, but at the very least, the Knicks have put to rest a handful of these concerns in the four games since Anunoby moved to The Big Apple.
New York has gone 4-0 with their new starting small forward in the line-up including wins over the West-leading Minnesota Timberwolves in his debut, two 16-point blowouts of the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards, and a 36-point drubbing of their Eastern Conference rival Philadelphia 76ers which is by far the most impressive one.
Anunoby’s statistics in these four contests have been far from spectacular–12 points, 1.5 three-pointers, 5.2 rebounds, 1.25 assists, and 1.5 steals per game–yet these do not tell the full story of his impact to this team.
Instead, Anunoby’s influence on this team is best measured by his record-breaking +/- with the team. In his first three games with the Knicks, he was a combined +74 which is the highest by any player in NBA history over their first three appearances on a new team.
What allows the 6’7 Anunoby to have such an outsized effect on a team’s success is his combination of size, strength, and mobility that gives him the ability to defend almost anyone on the court. He profiles as the type of player who was born to play for New York’s defense-oriented head coach Tom Thibodeau and has successfully covered some of the league’s top perimeter scorers in the three games that he has played with the Knicks including Anthony Edwards, DeMar DeRozan, and Tyrese Maxey.
Anunoby is also an asset on offense who cannot be played off the floor by scheming opponents and this is a major reason why he is so valuable. The 26-year-old is a career 37.5% three-point shooter which allows him to play the ever necessary role of a floor spacer. This is especially crucial with New York as their two primary scorers Brunson and Randle often drive to the basket for their shots.
This honeymoon period between Anunoby and the Knicks has been quite a pleasant one to watch, yet in the end, this new partnership will be judged come the postseason. A second consecutive second round appearance in this competitive Eastern Conference should be enough to label this trade as a success. However, this team realistically needs another deal or two before they can be credibly considered a championship-caliber team.
Nonetheless, this acquisition of Anunoby is a great start for New York and provides them with one more stable piece to rely on as they attempt to build a contender. Overall, this is a fantastic move for the Knicks and one that could eventually be looked back on as the moment in time that elevated this team from good to great.