Knicks make tough decision on important backup center as offseason draws on

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

The New York Knicks want to keep starting center Isaiah Hartenstein so badly that it may have clouded their judgment regarding his backup.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Post revealed that the Knicks did not give Precious Achiuwa a qualifying offer, slating him for free agency this summer:

“Precious Achiuwa, who served as a capable frontcourt injury replacement last season, didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Knicks by Saturday’s deadline, a source confirmed,” Bondy wrote.

“The move doesn’t completely rule out Achiuwa’s re-signing in the summer but the Knicks gave up their matching rights.”

Knicks benefitted from Precious Achiuwa’s play in 2023-24

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

Achiuwa was a vital component of the Knicks’ second-half surge in the 2023-24 NBA season. The Nigerian big man filled a void that the Knicks desperately needed to be addressed. After Julius Randle went down with a dislocated shoulder on Jan. 27 against the Miami Heat and the team battled through the absence of starting center Mitchell Robinson, New York was down backups at both power forward and center at a key juncture of the year.

The 6-foot-8 Achiuwa stepped in and averaged 7.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and a career-high 1.1 blocks on 52.5 percent shooting from the field in 24.2 minutes per game for New York across 49 games, 18 of which he started. The 24-year-old produced seven double-doubles for New York on the campaign and the Knicks went 5-2 when he put up such numbers.

Will the Knicks be able to resign Achiuwa once the Julius Randle & Isaiah Hartenstein dust settles?

Feb 27, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) controls the ball against New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Achiuwa’s smooth game, including his feel for putting the ball on the floor in triple-threat situations and rising up for soft finishes at the rim in close, benefitted the Knicks on their road to the 2024 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Albeit, the $6.3 million qualifying offer that he was eligible for would have put proverbial handcuffs on the Knicks’ pursuit of re-signing Hartenstein long-term.

Now that New York added Mikal Bridges, inked OG Anunoby to a five-year, $212.5 million deal, and brought back Jericho Sims on a team-friendly $2.1 million contract in recent days, they may let Achiuwa walk in unrestricted free agency. Should the Knicks keep the rest of their core intact as planned, his departure will sting, but not as bad, seeing that the Knicks will have Hartenstein, Sims, Randle, and No. 25 overall draft pick Pacome Dadiet manning their frontcourt slots with Josh Hart ready as a flex option. Nevertheless, Achiuwa will be a player for them to keep tabs on, as the Knicks may not have seen the fullness of their success last season without his contributions on the campaign.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: