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The Knick’s massive defensive improvements since the OG Anunoby trade

Just what this team needed.

Chicago Bulls v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Trading for OG Anunoby before the new year was the perfect addition for a Knicks team that needed a change.

New York limped to the finish line to close 2023, accumulating a 6-8 record in the year's final month.

Their offense wasn’t the problem. The Knicks averaged 121.6 points on 49.4 percent field goal shooting, which was good enough for sixth in the NBA. From three, they were in the bottom ten, hitting 12.1 per game, but were in the top 13 in three-point percentage at 37.8 percent. At the foul line, New York shot 80.9 percent on 26.1 attempts. This was a big improvement from the 74.3 percent they shot on 23.6 attempts per game in November. The Knicks scored at least 115 points in ten of the 14 December games.

So, with the good offensive stats, why did the Knicks finish two games under. 500 to close the year?

Defense:

The Knicks finished dead last in defensive rating in December. Their defensive rating was 123.6, and the Charlotte Hornets were 29th at 123.1.

We can point to why it happened, and it all starts with Mitchell Robinson. In November, the Knicks went 9-5 and finished sixth in defensive rating. Mitch got hurt in the third game of December, and everything spiraled after that. The team gave up 123.8 points per game in the final 11 games of the year. New York lost their defensive identity, and relying on scoring fests was probably not the best long-term plan.

Enter: OG Anunoby

The six-foot-seven wing, who has a seven-foot-two wingspan, was exactly what the doctor ordered. The 2022–23 All-NBA Defensive Second Team selection would greatly help restructure a reeling Knicks defense.

In December, New York was awful at defending the three-point line. They gave up 14.7 threes per game, and opponents were shooting 38.9 percent.

The final month of 2023 saw Knicks’ opponents put up 93.1 field goal attempts per game and make 46.1 of those attempts at 49.5 percent.

Fast forward through the first five games of January, and these numbers look drastically different. The Knicks are only allowing 9.8 three-pointers per game, tied for first in the league. Opponents are getting up just under 30 attempts per game and shooting 32.9 percent on those attempts.

Since the OG trade, opposing teams have only been able to make 35.8 field goals and attempt 83.4 per game. They are shooting 42.9 percent on field goal attempts.

After giving up 124.8 points per game in December, the Knicks are only allowing 97.4 points to start the new year.

The defensive shift has been incredible, but that's what a player like Anunoby brings.

Here’s what opponents have shot against OG from certain distances since he joined the Knicks:

Less than five feet: 64/128 (50%)

10-14 feet: 6/22 (27.3%)

15-19 feet: 4/18 (22.2%)

20-24 feet: 10/44 (22.7%)

25-29 feet: 17/50 (34.0%)

Mid-Range: 8/36 (22.2%)

Above The Break Three: 19/64 (29.7%)

His defensive rating in five games with the Knicks is 92.2.

Just elite stuff from a player who looks well on his way to making another All-Defensive Team.

With OG on the floor, it has taken defensive pressure off of his teammates. This is something I talked about with Isaiah Hartenstein being able to focus on being more of a rim protector now.

New York has been a top-eight team defending the paint since the turn of the calendar.

Anunoby can guard the other team's best wings and forwards and has completely changed the defensive outlook of the Knicks.

On top of the great defense, OG is an efficient offensive player, and he put that on display Tuesday night in the win over the Portland Trail Blazers:

OG Anunoby has brought the best out of his Knicks teammates since arriving in New York. The team is playing great defense and looks like a cohesive unit on both sides of the ball. I’m hopeful for the rest of the season, but I’m just going to enjoy the present for now.

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