It has long been said that O.G. Anunoby is the type of player you could plug and play into any team. He showed why that sentiment was true in his Knicks debut.
Anunoby scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds in 35 minutes of action. His performance was crucial in helping the Knicks secure a 112-106 victory over the Timberwolves, who came into the game with the best record in the Western Conference.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau praised Anunoby, telling SNY’s Ian Begley, “First game, impressive just to be ready and figure it out on the fly. Played smart, hustled, played great defense.”
About that defense — the Knicks had been sliding ever since losing All-Defensive caliber center Mitchell Robinson for the season, giving up more than 116 points over their past six games. Holding the Wolves to just 106 showed how valuable Anunoby can be.
Here’s why the 26-year-old will make the Knicks a lot better.
Why O.G. Anunoby and the Knicks are a perfect match
He instantly gives New York a playoff-tested lockdown defender
Anunoby finished tied for seventh in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season. His defense had taken a slight step back this season, but he looked back near peak form on Monday.
Anunoby has consistently taken the hardest matchups in the league, and that didn’t change against the Wolves — he was matched up on both Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns during portions of the game. There are very few players who could get stops on both players like this:
That has been Anunoby’s calling card for years now. He’s able to switch across multiple positions, giving the Knicks a great option against stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum in more isolation-heavy playoff settings.
As good as Anunoby is on the ball, he’s even better off it. He led the league in steals per game last season and showed why against the Wolves, flying in from the corner to break up a lob for Rudy Gobert. There were plenty of multiple effort plays from him, such as a dig at Edwards to force a miss followed by an impressive rebound over Gobert. He also completely stopped Kyle Anderson dead in his tracks on one of his drives.
Anunoby will clean up the mistakes of teammates around him and generate plenty of turnovers in the process. He didn’t have a pick-six steal in his debut, but Knicks fans should start seeing them on a regular basis.
He is a ceiling-raiser who can elevate the team’s stars
Anunoby does have limitations on offense. He’s not great at creating his own shot, and his decisions with the ball can be very mechanical. His ball handling in transition is rough. But what he does, he does extremely well.
Anunoby is one of the better corner 3-point shooters in the league. He was hitting on an excellent 44.3 percent of those looks before getting traded and hit three of his four attempts for the Knicks on Monday.
Anunoby isn’t a great motion shooter, but he doesn’t need to be in New York’s system. He’ll probably be stationed in the corners a lot to flatten out the floor for Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle.
O.G. should pair particularly well with Isaiah Hartenstein, who is one of the best pin-in screeners in the league.
It’s not just Anunoby’s career 37.6 percent 3-point shooting that makes him a good off-ball threat. He’s also an explosive finisher at the rim. The Knicks utilized him in the dunker spot, where he was able to catch dump-off passes for some nice dunks.
Anunoby is a smart cutter who can find open space. He seems to have found instant chemistry with Donte DiVincenzo and Brunson, who both have already learned to look for him when he dives to the rim.
The fact that Anunoby does not need the ball in his hands to be at his best makes him a much better fit than RJ Barrett, who was a worse shooter and more ball-dominant shot-creator. The Knicks already have shot creation with Brunson and Randle. Anunoby can allow those two to be the main cogs in the Knicks’ offense and punish the defense when they create advantages for him.
This is the perfect landing spot for Anunoby. He’s not a stud offensive player, but he doesn’t need to be. The Knicks have already proven that they can be a good offense, ranking No. 4 last year and No. 10 prior to the trade. Now, they have a chance to be a top-10 team on both sides of the ball.
That has traditionally been one of the hallmarks of championship teams, and Anunoby should elevate the entire team there in the playoffs.
Source : ESPN.com