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With O.G. Anunoby, the Knicks have been close to unbeatable


O.G. Anunoby has been the best trade addition of the season, and it’s shown thus far in the playoffs. RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley have both played well for the Raptors, but the Knicks would redo that trade in an instant. They’ve been an astounding 24-5 in games that O.G. has played in. A lot of that success can be traced directly back to him. 

The Knicks have been crushing teams in Anunoby’s minutes. They have outscored opponents by 21.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor during the regular season, which was far and away the highest mark in the league for any rotation player. 

Anunoby had a good-not-great regular season based on his box score statistics. He averaged 14.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. Those numbers don’t even begin to tell the story of how valuable he’s been. He is going to be the key not only to beating the Pacers in the second round, but in giving the Knicks a chance to get to the Finals. 

MORE: O.G. Anunoby trade grades for Knicks, Raptors

Anunoby is one of the best help defenders in the league. His contributions there can be tough to notice, because oftentimes he’s putting out fires before they start.

He closes off gaps to prevent drives from happening, helps the helper to block dump-off passes, and can act as the last line of defense at the rim. The Knicks would not have closed out the Sixers without his brilliant off-ball defense in Game 6.

Anunoby’s on-ball defense is also a strength of his game. He’s versatile enough to guard up and down the lineup. More importantly, he fights for every inch. The Sixers’ offense bogged down when Anunoby guarded Joel Embiid through the end of Game 4 because of how hard Anunoby worked to deny entry passes to the big man.

He’s also very capable on guards. He’s taken some turns on Tyrese Haliburton during the regular season, staying in front of the guard and forcing him into tough shots. 

Pascal Siakam has been remarkable for the Pacers, and Anunoby will likely draw that assignment to start. Siakam has thrived bullying smaller defenders in the post and driving by slower ones on the perimeter. If Anunoby can handle that matchup one-on-one, the Knicks should control this series. 

MORE: Inside the Knicks-Pacers rivalry in the 90s

Anunoby’s offensive contributions can be loud from time to time. He will create some jumpers off the dribble, and he had the dunk of the playoffs against Embiid. 

Those plays are more the exception than the rule. More often, he thrives by playing off the attention that Jalen Brunson receives. He’s a great 3-point shooter who is capable of punishing teams when they send extra help on Brunson’s drives

Anunoby’s cuts also add huge value for the Knicks’ offense. His timing on those plays is impeccable — he knows exactly when an opening will be created, and he’s a great finisher at the rim when he does get the ball going downhill. 

All of those little things add up to a player who is invaluable to the Knicks. Anunoby has been Tom Thibodeau’s security blanket, averaging 41.7 minutes per game through the first round. He will continue to play a lot, because he has been their glue that holds it all together. 

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