clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

OG Anunoby is a perfect fit with the New York Knicks

Game-changer OG Anunoby delivers on both ends for the New Look Knicks

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

After a trade, a lot of babble usually follows about which team “won” or “lost” the transaction—which club profited the most, which general manager got swindled. Sometimes both sides benefit, however, as was the case on December 30, when the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors swapped RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley for OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa, and Malachi Flynn.

Toronto had picked Anunoby 23rd in the 2017 Draft. New York selected Barrett third in 2019 and Quickley (by way of the Thunder) 25th in 2020. Our two fanbases had watched these young players take their first, sometimes awkward, steps on an NBA court, develop confidence, and become valuable rotational players. Emotional attachments were formed—us to the players, and the players to the city and team which they represented.

Personal attachment adds stakes to any deal. If the gamble is a bust, then our hearts were broken for nothing. That isn’t the case this time around for either side. As we saw on Saturday, when the Knicks hosted (and defeated) the Raptors, RJ and IQ are well-appreciated and utilized by their new clubs, and since the start of the calendar year, OG has proven to be an easy player to love.

Anunoby’s value to the team has been immediate and undeniable.

Recently in The Athletic, he was quoted as saying, “I feel like (I’m making a difference), even plays that don’t go on the stat sheet, little stuff, a steal here and there, a block or a contest or a closeout that forces a bad shot, little stuff that doesn’t get noticed [...] I try to do all those other things.”

The Game Score (GmSC) tallies a player’s total contributions to a game. Here are Game Scores for all the Knicks’ starters over the past five games:

  • Jalen Brunson, 23.26
  • Julius Randle, 15.16
  • OG Anunoby, 13.84
  • Isaiah Hartenstein, 10.84
  • Donte DiVincenzo, 9.56

For reference, in their last five games, Immanuel Quickley has a 12.46 GmSC and RJ Barrett a 14.34. Good contribution! But consider that since the trade, the Knicks have logged a 9-2 record while the Raptors went 4-7. OG contributes in winning ways.

As a Knick, OG has an average plus/minus rating of +17. That’s per game. His plus/minus total for those first 11 games? +190. A Statmuse.com search tells me that Derrick White holds the league’s best plus/minus total with +375. The difference? White did that in 39 games.

OG’s most apparent contribution is his defense. Since Anunoby donned a Knicks’ jersey, the team has logged a 103.5 defensive rating, the best in the league. His defensive appetite is contagious, and the whole team seems to be rising with his tide. Here are the defensive ratings for each starter over the last 11 games:

  • Hartenstein, 97.3
  • Anunoby, 105
  • DiVincenzo, 106.2
  • Randle, 107.3
  • Brunson, 113.3

OG (short for Ogugua) is the sort of indestructible player who brings a tear to the eye of Tom Thibodeau—or any coach worth his salt, frankly. The big wing provides a strong frame, tough defense, reliable shooting, and durability. For proof on the latter, check out his minutes. He’s averaged 36.7 minutes per game as a Knick, with three 43+ minute performances last week, including back-to-back tilts.

That kind of load is not new to OG and it demonstrates his elite conditioning. After the game against the Wizards, the man of few words said, “In Toronto, I played like 58 minutes one game—I’ve played a lot of minutes before, I’m used to this.”

According to Basketball-Reference.com, he has averaged at least 33.3 minutes per game from the 2020-21 season onward. Indeed, he is accustomed to putting in long shifts on the court. And while he’s out there, take note of his offensive contributions. Anunoby has been nearly automatic from downtown as a Knick, shooting 41% on 5.5 attempts. That dangerous threat from deep has opened up newfound spacing for the starting five.

I found this formula for calculating a player’s spacing:

(3PA * (3P% * 1.5)) - league average EFG% =

I was an art major, so my loose grasp on mathematics is often an embarrassment. Yet, I’ll do my best here. With the league average EFG set at .546 (per basketball-reference.com), these are my calculations for spacing, OG v. RJ:

  • Anunoby as Knick: (4.5 x (.408 X 1.5)) - .546 = 2.208
  • RJ Barrett as Knick: (5 x (.331 x 1.5)) - .546 = 1.9365

Whether or not that math is correct (I’m sure you’ll let me know), the ol’ reliable eye test reveals that OG has opened up the floor for the starters. The statistics for other players have improved since his arrival, too. As Ian Begley (SNY) tweeted, “Jalen Brunson’s assist numbers have jumped significantly since the OG Anunoby deal. Brunson’s assists per game (8.4) & assist percentage (35.5) since trade would both be top 6 in NBA if extrapolated over a full season.”

RJ and IQ were beloved by the city and in the locker room. Losing well-liked guys can be a blow to team morale. And, whenever a new player arrives mid-season, there can be concerns about how the incoming personality will fit with the established players. Guys who know OG best are convinced there’s nothing to worry about, however. He sounds like a perfect locker room guy. No drama, total commitment.

This week, Fred VanVleet (now with Houston) and Chris Boucher of Toronto raved about their former teammate in the New York Post. Boucher, who played with OG for six years, called him his “best friend” and said, “Who would not want a guy who could guard the best guy on the court and shoot the ball? He’s not asking for shots. He’s just doing it. Really low maintenance guy.” Furthermore:

“It’s kind of like a Kawhi-type. Where everybody is like Kawhi is so quiet, but then after you’re around him, you’re like, OK, ‘OG is like that,’ ” said Boucher, who is planning to meet Anunoby for dinner on Friday night in snowy NYC. “I feel like he talks a lot more when the cameras are off. Which I appreciate, too. I like a guy who can keep a secret.”

VanVleet was also quoted in the Post, saying, “Thibs is gonna love him, obviously. But I think more than that, with all those Villanova guys you got over here, he fits right into that mold, a similar type of personality and player. I think he’s a great fit for their team, and you could see it right away the way he plugged right in and was able to have success. Definitely, I think New York is gonna love him.”

Indeed we do—and we hope he sticks around for a long time.

Go Knicks!