Early returns for the Knicks have been excellent on the trade that sent OG Anunoby to New York.
Thus far, the starting unit has blown almost any and all opposition out of the water. They’ve outclassed inferior opponents, and have played up to level of competition against equal and superior ones. Through six games, the squad is 5-1, and OG has slotted into the starting lineup seamlessly alongside Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, Julius Randle, and Isaiah Hartenstein. The team’s defensive identity has only strengthened, and they’ve led the NBA in both defensive rating and net rating since the beginning of 2024.
Combine this with the cautious optimism surrounding Mitchell Robinson’s possible return before the end of the season, and New York fans have something to get excited about.
That being said, the Knicks have still been heavily involved in a whirlwind of trade rumors ahead of next month’s deadline. Most media outlets still view the Knicks as a tier below championship contender, and despite the evolution of the starting lineup, New York may not be done constructing a roster fit for a legitimate playoff run.
Perhaps the main hole on this current roster is one that was emphasized with the departure of Immanuel Quickley; a spark plug off the bench, one comfortable scoring at all three levels.
With the new absence of Quickley, the bench unit lacks the scoring punch that the Knicks may need in closer games down the stretch of the season. Tom Thibodeau has stuck to his formula of playing no more than nine in any given game since last season. In case of injury, he’s been reluctant to call the next man up, sometimes resorting to an eight-man rotation.
After the deal, Miles McBride assumed ball-handling duties off the bench. In the six games as a member of the rotation, he’s averaged 7.3 points, 1.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists a game, shooting 40/50/100. He’s playing only 13 minutes a game, and while he’s broken into the regular rotation, he’s known for his contributions on the defensive end of the floor, and is not necessarily a reliable offensive option. While his catch and shoot three percentage is something to be encouraged by, he is not a score-first player by any means. Thibodeau trusts him more for his defense than anything else.
Josh Hart is another Thibodeau favorite. Last year’s midseason acquisition brought new life to the Knicks, and is one of the best rebounding guards in the league. He’s a hound on defense, brings hustle and energy to every game, and pushes the ball in transition every opportunity he can. Again, though, he’s not known for scoring the rock, and he’s an average shooter at best. Hart is a total spark plug, but not one that puts the ball in the basket.
Precious Achiuwa is the new big off the bench, also acquired in the recent trade. He’s averaging 3.3 points in 13 minutes per game since he became a Knick. I expect some positive regression to about 5-6 PPG. He could contribute as a post scorer, but again, not the on-ball scorer that the Knicks are hoping for. If Mitchell Robinson returns, Achiuwa would almost certainly be banished to the end of the bench.
Quentin Grimes is a guy I’ve loved for some time now, and is perhaps the only current Knicks who I think has the potential to fill this role. He’s always been a three and D guy, but he really has the capacity to score at all three levels, especially off the dribble, going to the rim. Tom Thibodeau initially banished him to the corner on the offensive side of things, but he’s shown real flashes of being a complete scorer.
In the last six games, Grimes is averaging 12 points in 19 minutes per game on excellent efficiency, shooting 46% from long distance. His confidence is starting to rise again on offense, and he’s looking to put the ball in the basket more than ever. Thibs is beginning to trust him once again as a scorer, and Grimes has a real future in this league if he can continue his steady level of play.
As a whole, assessing the bench unit is hard. None of these players are true scorers, and while they’re all gritty, tough players, someone’s gotta put the ball in the basket.
While I love Miles McBride, the Knicks might be better suited playing someone else as the backup ball handler, as his skillset is a bit redundant given the way these Knicks are built. With that said - I doubt that happens. Thibs has been grooming McBride for a while now, and he just signed a big extension. Perhaps a big man who scores? A wing?
What to do?
Free agency? No names jump out.
Ten day contracts are now available - I’ve always been a big advocate of giving G League guys a shot, and the Knicks have an open roster spot. Maybe it’s time to audition someone
If the Knicks make a trade, they could look to get someone like Bones Hyland or Luka Garza - someone who puts the ball in the basket who has fallen out of grace in their respective rotation. There have also been rumors about Malcolm Brogdon becoming a Knick, someone who could be perfect alongside the rest of the roster.
Knicks fans, how are you feeling about the team right now? Is the bench ready for a playoff run, or are there still moves to be made?