When the The New York Knicks-Toronto Raptors deal sent international shockwaves through the basketball world, many media outlets were primarily focused (and understandably so) on the three big names in the deal: OG Anunoby, Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett. The three players are recognizable names to even casual basketball fans, and with the Knicks trading two homegrown players for a defensive stud, fans were quick to skim over the rest of the fine print regarding the transaction.
It was no surprise, then, that the acquisitions of both Precious Achiuwa and Malachi Flynn flew under the radar.
Malachi Flynn may have been relegated to the outskirts of New York’s bench, alongside dudes like Ryan Arcidiacono and Charlie Brown Jr.
Amongst a slew of injuries, though, Precious Achiuwa has stepped up into a massive role for the Knicks. And so far, he’s delivered.
Achiuwa had an underwhelming first ten games with the Knicks. In a backup 4/5 role, Precious averaged just under twelve minutes a game. 2.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game were fine in terms of filling minutes, but they did nothing to inspire confidence in terms of stepping into a larger role if needed. Coach Thibs notoriously only likes to play guys that he trusts, and Achiuwa was not one of them.
Then, against the Raptors on January 20, disaster struck. Isaiah Hartenstein, a player who in his own right had stepped up after Mitchell Robinson’s early-season injury, suffered an ankle injury of his own. The only other big man on the bench? Precious Achiuwa.
Precious responded with the best game of his young Knick career. In just under 25 minutes, Achiuwa posted 18 points and 11 rebounds, both season-highs. He was a +13 and anchored the post for the Knicks, and showed that he was capable of playing a bigger role and earning Tom Thibodeau’s trust.
With no Hartenstein, Achiuwa played four big games off the bench. The Knicks won all four of them, and he averaged 25 minutes, 7.5 points, 10 rebounds, and one block per game.
Alas. against the Miami Heat, Julius Randle went down. There were even bigger shoes to fill this time, and Achiuwa was thrust into the starting lineup.
In the two games since then, Precious has been steady and given the Knicks a reason to breathe. On Monday at the Hornets, he played 32 minutes, and posted nine points and 5 rebounds in a +21 effort. Then the following day, versus the Jazz, he had 18 points again, alongside five rebounds and two blocks.
Two games, two wins.
In games Achiuwa has played at least 20 minutes, the Knicks are 7-0. That’s huge.
Precious Achiuwa’s low post ability has provided much needed depth to the Knicks, and he’s looked far better than Jericho Sims had in a similar role. On the defensive end, he has the size and length to disrupt shots as a rim protector, and with the ball in his hands, he has a soft touch and the ability to stretch out the floor from beyond the arc.
With Isaiah Hartenstein on a minutes restriction, the return of Julius Randle a few weeks away, and Mitchell Robinson out for the foreseeable future, Achiuwa has been a nice addition for a New York team affected by injuries. The Knicks struck gold on a low-cost solution to hold them over for times like these.