Knicks expect to get defensive anchor back on Tuesday against 76ers

NBA: Denver Nuggets at New York Knicks
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks have long-awaited good news on the injury front, and they finally get it in the form of OG Anunoby’s return to the lineup. Shams Charania of The Athletic reports that the Knicks will return to the lineup in their Tuesday matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers, as he should provide a huge boost to a struggling roster. The injuries have piled up and ravaged the Knicks, but with Anunoby in the fold, they should see a massive improvement on both sides of the ball.

It’s a huge break for the Knicks, who were without their big deadline acquisition for over a month with an elbow injury he suffered, and he’s now going to be able to contribute in games and give New York a huge boost.

OG Anunoby Set To Make His Return to the Knicks

NBA: Miami Heat at New York Knicks
Jan 27, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) dunks the ball during the second half against the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Knicks made the stunning trade for OG Anunoby, they knew they were getting a defensive anchor, and he’s been one of their most valuable players upon arrival. It isn’t just defensively, but offensively they’re much more dangerous when they have one of the better shooters in the league on the floor, and his remarkable wingspan can create some easy scores at the rim as well. Anunoby should give the Knicks a nice tertiary option in their starting lineup as you continue to expect both Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo to create the majority of their offense.

Getting back to the defensive side of the ball, he’s clearly the Knicks’ best perimeter defender, but the aforementioned reach and length have made him a versatile option that can post up down low as well. The Knicks have regressed heavily as a defense without Anunoby, but with him back and Isaiah Harteinstein remaining the excellent presence in the paint that he’s been all season, the two could terrorize opposing defenses once more. The starting lineup isn’t fully back, as Julius Randle is still recovering from his shoulder injury, but the team is certainly stronger.

One question would be whether the Knicks would feel comfortable keeping the red-hot Josh Hart in the starting lineup and moving Precious Achiuwa to the second unit where he can provide defense and an interior presence. Moving Hart to the second unit would be fine, but it’s a smaller formation that could cause defensive issues given the woes that Bogdanovic and Burks have both had since arriving in New York.

READ MORE: Is Knicks’ Alec Burks being phased out of the rotation?

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks
Mar 10, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) and Philadelphia 76ers forward Nicolas Batum (40) fight for a loose ball during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

A starting unit with Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, OG Anunoby, Josh Hart, and Isaiah Hartenstein would have the best combination of defense and spacing, and the bench unit might be better optimized as well. Miles McBride has emerged as one of the best bench players on the roster, and the aforementioned Achiuwa has been a godsend since coming over in the same deal that brought Anunoby to Madison Square Garden. How this affects their two other trade acquisitions is important, and there’s reason to believe the added depth on defense could help them.

Part of the issue with the former Pistons is that the team defense takes a hit with them on the court, and Thibs can try some wonky alignments to balance the spacing and defense. Even without looking at the Knicks’ rotations, what we know is that they need OG Anunoby, and his return will have a great impact on their roster and on-court performance.

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