At this point, it’s no secret that the Knicks are among the multiple teams interested in trading for the Raptors’ standout wing, OG Anunoby. And while it’s still very possible that he ends up elsewhere, the rumors have been consistent and relevant enough that it may just be time to hypothesize and ask ourselves, what would Anunoby on the Knicks look like and what it would do for them?
Assuming that Toronto would like a deal centered around multiple picks, the New York may only have to part ways with one young player, and that piece, given the team’s preference and Anunoby’s position, would most likely be Obi Toppin. The former Dayton Flyer has been underutilized and misused for pretty much his entire tenure in New York and with a higher profile and better forward coming in, it doesn’t really make sense for them to keep Toppin.
So in this hypothetical situation, the first step would be to insert Anunoby into the starting lineup. That would mean sliding Grimes back into the second unit which would help solve the outside shooting problem that the bench has been dealing with all season. Teams would have a harder time justifying going zone against the second unit and adding a shooter like Grimes should help create way more space for both Immanuel Quickley, the backup point guard, and RJ Barrett, who starts but plays with the second unit a lot. Overall, a bench squad lead by a backcourt duo of Quickley and Grimes could be an incredibly deadly one both offensively and defensively.
But more importantly, what would Anunoby’s presence and addition into the starting lineup do? First off, it would move Barrett back to the shooting guard position. While it may take some time for the effects of this to show, Barrett could hypothetically get back to being a bit more quick by shedding off some of the weight he gained to become a full time small forward. It may impact his finishing abilities a bit, but it should help him regain some of the athleticism, which in turn, would help him stay with quicker guards defensively while also positively impacting his ability to create space and blow by slower players. The Knicks would also then be able to hide Barrett on weaker players and allow him to be a weak side help defender, something he really excelled at over the first few years of his career. Meanwhile, they’d be able to put Anunoby on the opposing team’s best perimeter players and do so comfortably knowing that Anunoby is one of the best in the business on that end of the floor.
Anunoby would also give Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson even more space to operate with on the offensive end. The 6’7” wing was the league leader in points from the left corner just a few weeks ago, and is currently shooting 36% from 3. Add in the fact that Barrett is currently the league leader in points from the left corner and you’d have an offense where Randle and Brunson could see some big openings in the middle of the court.
As is the case with any player and trade, it’s important to note the negatives as well. Anunoby has dealt with injury problems over the last two seasons and while he’s on pace to surpass it this season, he hasn’t played over 50 games in a season since 2020. The young wing is also not much of a creator. While he’s gotten significantly better at creating his own shots, he hasn’t really had the opportunity to or showcased the ability to create for others. Anunoby is averaging just 2 APG this season and his career-high is just 2.6 APG. The former Indiana Hoosier has also reportedly been unhappy with his role and offensive usage in Toronto this season. While he hasn’t necessarily been vocal about it or even confirmed those reports, there’s often fire where there is smoke. And coming to a Knicks team where Randle, Barrett, and Brunson all average more than 16 shots a game could create similar problems for Anunoby.
If Anunoby can come in and understand his role and sacrifice for the betterment of the team, it’d be an amazing addition that would certainly make the Knicks better. His sought-after combination of elite perimeter defense and outside shooting would instantly help the Knicks. But that’s only for the right price. New York is still a piece or two away from being a piece away and thus must be cautious of giving up too much for a player that doesn’t put them over the top. Even with Anunoby, the Knicks are still likely looking at a first round exit in the playoffs so they’ll have to ask themselves if using three first-round picks for a player that has never even come to being an all-star is worth it. Anunoby, despite being a good player, does not move the needle for the Knicks and should only be considered if the Knicks can entice the Raptors to take the Knicks’ protected picks or just less picks in general. And as boring as it may sound, given where the Knicks currently are and what their timeline ultimately, they may just be better off not being too trigger-happy amidst the post-Gobert trade market.