Knicks have good reason to keep versatile backup center this summer

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

The climate around the New York Knicks calls for them to hold on to Precious Achiuwa this summer. The Knicks may lose breakout center Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency. Their other featured center, Mitchell Robinson, has been plagued with injuries in his Knicks tenure and has his name swirling in trade rumors.

Not to mention, the Knicks were lacking in their depth chart at power forward behind All-Star Julius Randle before Achiuwa’s arrival on Broadway this past regular season. All of these factors call for Achiuwa to stay.

Knicks: Precious Achiuwa’s versatility makes him worth the projected salary

May 12, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA;  Indiana Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard (2) shoots the ball while New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) defends during game four of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Now that he’s slated for restricted free agency once the market opens up, SNY’s David Vertsberger laid out Achiuwa’s anticipated market value for later in 2024:

“As a restricted free agent, the Knicks can match any offer Achiuwa agrees to this summer. He could receive a contract in the $8-12 million range over multiple seasons, a fair number to lock in a 24-year-old defensive bench big with upside,” Vertsberger wrote.

Achiuwa made a considerable impact on the Knicks upon making his franchise debut on Jan 1. In 49 games, 18 of which he started, the Nigerian big man averaged 7.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks a night. The Knicks went 5-2 when Achiuwa posted a double-double.

The 6-8 power forward/center proved that he could slide into either role seamlessly under Knicks head coach Thibodeau. New York deployed him at the four next to Isaiah Hartenstein in 19 games and Jericho Sims in 24. He also manned the middle alone on eight occasions.

Knicks can bring back Achiuwa as a safety net without jeopardizing their salary cap

May 6, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Pascal Siakam (43) controls the ball against New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) during the second quarter of game one of the second round of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Achiuwa has a soft touch around the rim. He moves fluidly on the court and is able to clean the glass and protect the rim at a high rate for his height in the time he’s given. While he leaves something to be desired with his efficiency from outside, the Memphis product is capable of knocking down looks from distance on occasion. He has time to develop in that area, which could amplify his value to the team.

Considering the fact that Achiuwa has a $6.27 million qualifying offer for 2024-25, his projected price tag from Vertsberger would not heavily burden the Knicks and their $143.75 million payroll for next season as it stands, especially in the event of a roster shakeup that’s shown every sign of being on the horizon.

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