By Tate Hutchinson
On the afternoon of Saturday, December 30, 2023, it was announced that the Knicks made a big swing, cashing in many assets to acquire who they hope is the missing piece for their team: then-Raptors wing OG Anunoby. The 26-year-old forward was acquired along with big man Precious Achiuwa, in exchange for longtime Knicks RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, and the bottom-ranked Detroit’s second-round pick this year.
Along with Anunoby, Raptors star and 2019 Champion Pascal Siakam was recently moved to Indiana for three first-round picks. With this high asking price, New York management pounced at the right time before the market got too competitive. And based on how the team is playing since the new year, the deal is paying dividends already.
The day the trade went through, the Knicks were 17-15 and on the cusp of being out of a playoff spot. Since Anunoby joined the squad, New York has rattled off a 14-2 record in January. In this time, the star wing has seamlessly fit into the roster. With averages of 15.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game on higher efficiency, OG Anunoby has not missed a beat in his first month calling NYC home. Achiuwa, as well, has been thriving in a new system. His shooting percentages are up significantly surrounded by the talented New York squad.
Even so, the Knicks are maintaining success despite piling injury concerns. On January 27, it was announced that star forward Julius Randle would miss multiple weeks with a right shoulder dislocation. Still without their starting center Mitchell Robinson, the Knicks had a lot of holes to fill. With the injuries and roster changes, many players are stepping up.
Leading scorer Jalen Brunson is having his most productive month this season, surpassing his averages with 28.9 points and 7.7 assists per game. Having started every game in January, sixth-year guard Donte DiVincenzo has also bumped up production significantly. Per game, Donte is putting up numbers far above his season averages with 15.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists this month. And in the wake of injuries at center, Isaiah Hartenstein has stepped into a big role and is playing far above expectations. His numbers have nearly doubled with added minutes, averaging an excellent 12.1/8.3/2.5 statline.
The trade did not cost a substantial amount of assets besides the core two players, which gives the Knicks further opportunity to improve the roster. With many additional picks in future years, Leon Rose could cash in and land an even bigger splash. Now sitting at 31-17 as the third seed in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks are poised to host another first round series at the electric Madison Square Garden. But with MVP candidates leading the other top teams in the East, it may be time for the Knicks to land a final piece to carry them to championship contention.