Knicks getting maximum value from toss-in trade piece

nba: boston celtics at new york knicks, precious achiuwa
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Originally seen as nothing more than a throw-in to a blockbuster trade, PF Precious Achiuwa has stepped up in a massive way for the New York Knicks amidst their injury crisis.

Thursday night against the Philadelphia 76ers was only the continuation of an encouraging trend from Achiuwa. He recorded a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds and displayed a strong defensive effort with two steals and a block. His performance was instrumental in snapping the Knicks’ four-game losing streak with the 110-96 victory on the road against the 76ers.

Achiuwa has stepped up in spite of the Knicks’ injuries

When Julius Randle went down with a dislocated shoulder, the Knicks elevated Achiuwa to the starting lineup. In addition, the absences of OG Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson forced the fourth-year big man to log increased minutes, and he has delivered in those minutes.

In his last six games, Achiuwa led the NBA in minutes per game with 40.9 and averaged over 15.7 points on 63% shooting from the field. He has also logged 11.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1.2 steals per game over that span, displaying effective offense and tremendous defense.

Achiuwa has put on a strong display of versatility

With the Knicks already without center Mitchell Robinson, they have had to experiment with lineups that include the 6’8” Achiuwa playing the center position in smaller lineups. Even so, he has held his own and put on an incredible display on the defensive side of the ball.

“That just speaks to my versatility, being able to play multiple positions,” Achiuwa said on the MSG broadcast after Thursday’s game. “Defensively I guard [all positions].”

Achiuwa’s time as a Knick started out slow, oftentimes getting the least minutes out of every rotation player prior to the Randle and Anunoby injuries. Now, he is playing arguably the best basketball of his young career with a larger opportunity.

His impact has been felt on both ends of the floor. While he may not fully replicate the all-around offensive play Randle brings, Achiuwa has shown a willingness to create his own shot and attack the basket, and it has resulted in efficient scoring.

Defensively, he has displayed great footwork, not getting overzealous and avoiding foul trouble, as well as being a force underneath the rim and a pest in the passing lanes.

Could Tom Thibodeau expand the rotation to make room for Achiuwa long term?

His performance leap may leave head coach Tom Thibodeau no choice but to expand the rotation beyond nine players and make Achiuwa the primary backup power forward behind Randle when he is able to return.

Regardless of what Achiuwa’s role looks like on a Knicks team at full strength, his latest stretch is a pleasant surprise given the plethora of injuries the team has suffered over the past month. He will look to continue that stretch when he and the Knicks take on the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

Follow this writer on X: @DylanBacker_

Mentioned in this article:

More about: