With the NBA trade deadline just two weeks away the rumors have begun to heat up and one of the most talked about players is Toronto Raptors’ forward OG Anunoby. The 25-year-old has been linked to countless teams as the Raptors grind through a down year, and he’s recently come up as a potential target for the Knicks.
But should he be?
OG Anunoby as a Player
Let’s start with the basics, after being a defense-first player coming out of college at Indiana, OG Anunoby came into his own as a scorer in the 2020-21 season. This year, he is averaging 17.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 2.1 steals per game while shooting 45.9% from the field.
However, Anunoby’s value comes from his defense.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR, which uses “play-by-play and player-tracking data to calculate each player’s individual plus-minus measurements and wins above replacement” while accounting for playing time, Anunoby is the 26th-ranked small forward in basketball by Wins Above Replacement, essentially how much better he is than the average NBA small forward. However, Anunoby ranks 13th in just defensive RAPTOR.
That’s better than trendy Knicks targets like Caleb Martin (2oth), Bruce Brown (T-30th), and Jalen McDaniel (T-30th).
His 2.1 steals per game lead the NBA, and his Defensive Win Shares ranks 20th in the league among all forwards.
However, while he is shooting 36% from beyond the arc, he is more of a slasher. He shoots 32.3% from the field on unassisted field goal attempts, which ranks 7th on the Raptors alone when factoring in their regular rotation members. His percentage of points in the paint is 46.9%, which is just below Pascal Siakam on Toronto and highlights how OG Anunoby likes to get to the rim.
While he’s not necessarily a high-usage player, he does rank 4th in usage among the Raptors’ regulars and has just an 8.3% assist rate and 0.92 assist-to-turnover ratio, which are in the bottom half of his own team.
His effective field goal percentage is 52.8% and his true shooting percentage is 56.4%. For comparison sake, Obi Toppin has a 52.6% field goal percentage and 54.3% true shooting percentage, which makes them fairly similar from that standpoint.
His Fit on the Knicks
If Anunoby were to come to the Knicks, he would likely slot into the starting lineup and replace Quentin Grimes (assuming the Knicks kept RJ Barrett). That would give the Knicks a starting rotation of Jalen Brunson, Anunoby, Barrett, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson (when healthy).
While Grimes is a good defender, Anunoby rates out as a better one (1.8 defensive RAPTOR to Grimes’ 0.4) and Anunoby has the length at 6’7″ to match up better with bigger forwards, which has been a problem for the Knicks this season.
However, Grimes is shooting X from three, has a 57% effective field goal percentage, and 60% true shooting percentage, so the Knicks would lose some floor spacing in a lineup that desperately needs some.
Anunoby would also have to be OK with a lower usage rate. Part of Grimes’ appeal as a starter is that he can fit next to three high-usage rate players like Randle, Barrett, and Brunson because he only has a 13.9% usage rate and is more of a floor-spacer. Would Anunoby be OK cutting into his 20.1% usage rate because that won’t be sustainable while being the fourth scoring option on the Knicks?
What Would it Cost the Knicks to Get Him?
Lastly, the cost to get OG Anunoby is high. The Raptors had reportedly asked for three first-round picks or two first-round picks and a young player with upside. Now, the Knicks have plenty of first-round picks and young players with upside, so they could be a fit, but they have to decide if they want to be.
Moving RJ Barrett would make some sense. He has improved as a scorer, but he is a liability on the defensive end and is still really a slasher who relies on free throws, which doesn’t give the Knicks the floor spacing the lineup needs. Anunoby could provide a decent amount of what Barrett does on offense with far superior defense.
However, the Knicks are unlikely to move Barrett, but they might be into a deal like this:
Despite playing well, Obi Toppin can’t seem to find his way on the floor in New York. He’s averaging just 15.6 minutes per game this season and 14.5 minutes per game in his career. He’s eligible for a rookie extension after this season, and then next season will be the last season before the Knicks would need to extend him a qualifying offer that could be up to $10 million.
Given how little the Knicks are playing him now, it would seem unlikely the team would want to extend that qualifying offer while Julius Randle is still around. This means that, if the Knicks are not going to play Obi Toppin more, the time might be right to deal him while he is still on an affordable contract.
Toppin and two protected first-round picks could be enough to get Anunoby from the Raptors. The Knicks would just need to throw in Derrick Rose to make the salaries work, but since he doesn’t play in New York, that shouldn’t be an issue.
This wouldn’t be too much of a loss for the Knicks are they are currently constructed, but it would take a massive chunk out of their trade capital.
Using two first-round picks to acquire OG Anunoby would likely mean the Knicks can’t take a big swing on another veteran player. They would still have enough picks to move up in the draft and be aggressive in selecting rookies they want, but would they have enough of a foundation to build a title contender around?
If you believe that all they’re lacking is defense then the answer could be yes, but if you think the Knicks need more consistent outside shooting then maybe a move for Anunoby might not be the best use of their vast resources.
For more Knicks coverage, like this OG Anunoby trade article visit amNY Sports
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