Saturday, May 25, 2024

Knicks’ dominant win over Sixers offers more proof that the OG Anunoby trade raised their ceiling

On a night of blowouts across the NBA, the New York Knicks had the most impressive such result. They went into Philadelphia and destroyed the 76ers, 128-92, for their most lopsided win in over a full calendar year. In the process, they moved to 3-0 since acquiring OG Anunoby in a blockbuster trade late last month

At the time of the deal, the Knicks had lost four of five games and decided to act before things got any worse. While everyone expected Anunoby to be on the move at some point, the Knicks got a jump on the rest of the league and pulled off the first blockbuster deal of the trade deadline season

Whether they overpaid or not by giving up both RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley is still up for debate, but the upside of adding an elite perimeter defender while creating a better roster fit around Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle was too tantilizing to pass up. Anunoby is an elite 3-point shooter from the corner — 44.9% for the season — which is a big part of the Knicks’ offense. He also doesn’t need the ball in his hands and can guard the other team’s best offensive player. Meanwhile, the trade freed up more minutes for shooters such as Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride, the latter of which signed a three-year extension in the hours following the trade. 

Their dominant performance against the Sixers was the most emphatic showing yet for this new group. 

Neither Randle nor Anunoby could buy a bucket — they were a combined 4-of-22 from the field — and yet the Knicks still scored almost at will against the second-ranked defense in the league. That was thanks in large part to their 3-point attack, which was led by Grimes and McBride. The youngsters took advantage of their expanded roles to each hit four 3-pointers. 

As a team, the Knicks went 18-of-41 from downtown in the win, with both the makes and attempts tied for their third-most in a game this season. Since the trade, they are making 39.8% of their 3s on 37.7 attempts per game, up from 37.5% on 34.4 attempts prior to the deal. That’s a small sample size, but the numbers are positive. With more spacing and better shooters on the floor, the Knicks should not only make more 3s, but open up more space for Brunson and Randle concurrently. 

Defensively, they held the SIxers’ high-powered attack to its least-efficient outing of the season. Philly had a 92.0 offensive rating in this game; their previous low, including all the games Embiid has missed, was 100.0. Embiid was held in check, and as a team, the Sixers shot 40.9% from the field and turned it over 14 times. 

Anunoby was a big part of that, as he spent most of the game chasing around Tyrese Maxey, but it was a true team effort all the way through. They were swarming to Embiid in the paint and closing out hard on the 3-point line. The Sixers had little answers once the Knicks shut off their transition game, which led to 16 points in the first quarter. 

Since the trade, the Knicks have now beaten two of the top-five teams in the league (they beat the Timberwolves on New Year’s Day), boast the best defense in the league in that stretch and have a plus-19.1 net rating. There’s a long way to go, but the early evidence suggests that the Knicks have raised their ceiling with the bold move to get Anunoby. 

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