In addition to OG, the Knicks would pick up big man Precious Achiuwa. New York had one of the league's best big-man rotations, with Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein rotating the center positions. Once Robinson got hurt, it forced Hartenstein to play a larger role as a starter. A role in which he’s excelled.
The team lacked big-man depth, and the ‘add-on’ in the Anunoby trade would get his shot to play. It hasn’t been super smooth sailing since he arrived in New York. Precious has only played 20+ minutes in three of the 12 games that he’s suited up for.
On Saturday, January 20th, he showed up against his former team. In a game that was centered around Barrett and Quickley returning to Madison Square Garden, Achiuwa had some of his own business to take care of.
The former Toronto Raptors scored 18 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in 24 minutes of action. He shot 9/10 from the floor and finished the game with a +13. All 18 of his points came in the paint. It was only the third time in his career that he'd reached that mark.
What was also encouraging was that Precious finished the game with a 115.4 offensive rating and a 90.4 defensive rating. His 90.4 defensive rating was the best rating he’s had this season in 21 games in which he’s played at least 17+ minutes
Following the game against his former team, Achiuwa got his first taste of the Knicks-Nets rivalry on Tuesday night, January 23rd. With starting center Isaiah Hartenstein out, he would be asked to step up. Playing 21 minutes, Precious scored six points and tied Julius Randle for a team-high nine rebounds.
He may have only played 22 minutes to Jericho Sim’s 26 minutes, but Achiuwa checked in for Sims with 3:12 left in the third quarter and never checked out after that. The Knicks were down 74-68 when he checked in and ended up winning the game 108-103. It was an important game for Achiuwa to earn some trust from new head coach Tom Thibodeau.
Once again, he finished with an excellent 90.9 defensive rating and a 120.5 offensive rating. His +13 was also a team-high.
When asked after the game if he feels like he’s starting to find footing in the last couple of games, Achiuwa answered with this:
“Absolutely. I'm just getting a better feel for my teammates and understanding the way they play. That helps me understand what position I need to be in, and making reads off of them is becoming a lot easier.”
The Knicks need this productive version of Achiuwa to keep showing up. Still only 24 years old, there’s a lot to like about the athletic big man. If he can embrace that defensive mentality that coach Thibodeau preaches, we’ll be seeing a lot more of number five on the court going forward.