OG Anunoby brings new approach, direction to Knicks stars in 2024

OG Anunoby Knicks
New York Knicks’ OG Anunoby, left, tries to get a shot past Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Knicks have not lost a game since acquiring OG Anunoby from the Toronto Raptors. That stretch has included wins against two of the league’s best, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Philadelphia 76ers. Anunoby’s arrival in the Big Apple has symbolized a shift in team approach, one that is much more on brand for Tom Thibodeau-led teams; a defensive first, physical mindset that beats teams into submission.

Before acquiring Anunoby, the Knicks were allowing an average of 113.9 points per game, which is right about the league average this season. Over their last four games, however, the Knicks are the second-best defensive team in the league during that stretch, suffocating teams to an average of 100.8 points per game.

The defensive versatility Anunoby brings to the table has shifted the dynamic of the roster, allowing more focus to be paid to that side of the floor. The presence and talent of Anunoby allow for other top defenders to have more freedom to operate within Thibodeau’s system. 

“It’s fun whenever you’re winning,” point guard Jalen Brunson said following New York’s 121-105 win over the Washington Wizards on Saturday. “Obviously when you’re putting up numbers like that it’s pretty cool. But we just want to win, that’s all we care about.”

Jalen Brunson Knicks
Jalen Brunson (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Randle and Brunson combined for 72 of the Knicks 121 points in DC, showing their offensive firepower can coexist with defensive tenacity, a trend that has not always been present this season. Considering Anunoby does not demand the volume that Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett did, the duo of Randle and Brunson has elevated to a new level in the last four games.

The dynamic duo has set the world ablaze, with both being top ten scorers in the league over the last four, with Randle averaging 30.3 points per game and Brunson averaging 27.3.

“The challenge is to build consistency to your team and your approach,” Thibodeau said.

While the Anunoby era in New York is certainly a small sample size, the consistency is already starting to show and pay dividends. With fewer mouths to feed on the offensive end, there is more of a defined balance between scorers and facilitators. 

Brunson and Randle are taking advantage of the extra volume, as they are both averaging over 20 FGA per game since acquiring Anunoby. No other team in the league has two players with over 20 FGA per game in that stretch.

Between the defensive versatility Anunoby brings to the table as well as the offensive freedom Randle and Brunson have been empowered with, the early returns on the trade with the Raptors seem to be positive. The challenge now, which Thibodeau alluded to, is to build consistency and continue to improve on both ends of the floor. If the Knicks can do that, they will be right in the heat of the mix as the postseason looms.

For more on the Knicks and OG Anunoby, visit AMNY.com