Precious Achiuwa An Unsung Hero For New York Knicks

Precious Achiuwa, Jalen Green, Knicks, Rockets, NBA
Feb 12, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green (4) drives with the ball as New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) defends during the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks were the hottest team in the NBA in the first few weeks of 2024. The trade they completed with the Toronto Raptors centered around OG Anunoby had lifted the team to a new stratosphere of production on both ends of the court.

They had the stingiest defense in the league, holding teams to 100.1 points per game in January. Offensively, they were being carried by All-Stars Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle. With those two as the main cogs, New York bludgeoned opponents with physicality, wearing them down as the game went on.

Unfortunately, their good luck came to an end on January 27th against the Miami Heat. That was the last time Anunoby and Randle were in the lineup, as both are currently dealing with multi-week injuries. The injury bug has hit the Knicks hard, as Isaiah Hartenstein has missed multiple games on top of Mitchell Robinson being sidelined since early December.

That has left Tom Thibodeau with very few options in the frontcourt. Luckily for the Knicks, Anunoby wasn’t the only player they received from the Raptors. Along with him, New York also acquired Precious Achiuwa, who has turned into an unsung hero for the team.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Precious Achiuwa & New York Knicks Updates

Since the starting forward tandem went down, Achiuwa has stepped into the starting lineup at power forward. Most nights, he is also playing backup center minutes, as Thibodeau is relying on him to play a heavy workload and Achiuwa has responded.

As shared by Tommy Beer on X, Achiuwa currently leads the NBA in minutes per game since the injuries arose. He has played 39+ minutes in seven straight games and will likely extend that streak to eight on Wednesday against the Orlando Magic.

With his extended playing time, Achiuwa has been producing at a high clip. He is averaging 13.3 points on 53.9 percent shooting from the field while pulling down 10.4 rebounds with 1.3 steals and 1.9 blocks per game. The only other player to average a double-double with more than one steal and block per game is Los Angeles Lakers star, Anthony Davis.

For someone considered a throw-in, Achiuwa has proven to be much more than that. He has stepped up big time with the injuries crushing the Knicks’ frontcourt depth, doing whatever it is that Tom Thibodeau needs from him.

Of course, Achiuwa isn’t the perfect player. He struggles at times with the ball in his hands, as shown in this clip from Knicks Film School from Monday’s game against the Houston Rockets. With teams blitzing Jalen Brunson, opponents are forcing other players to make plays and are sometimes coming up short.

But, the positives have been outweighing the negatives greatly for Achiuwa. Turnovers have been an issue at times, as shown above, but he makes up for it. With teams essentially ignoring him during some possessions, it enables him to get into position to crash the offensive glass.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Precious Achiuwa & New York Knicks Updates

Achiuwa has fit right in when it comes to offensive rebounding, rebounding 11.6 percent of the team’s misses on offense, which is a career-high. He uses his screen-setting ability to his advantage, creating mismatches under the rim for easy put-backs.

Defensively is where Achiuwa has really shined. His lack of size does hurt when he is playing the center position. He is racking up blocks, but he isn’t as intimidating at the rim as Hartenstein, Robinson or even Jericho Sims. Opponents are shooting 62 percent against him at the rim and Aaron Holiday made three straight shots near the basket around him.

Thibodeau’s drop scheme is exploitable when Achiuwa is the man dropping and protecting the rim. But, there are some real positives to him on the defensive end. He has excellent footwork and the athleticism to stick with smaller players on the perimeter.

Whether it was in a post-up against Alperen Sengun or getting switched onto Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr., Achiuwa got the job done. His versatility on defense has been key to helping the Knicks stay afloat with their injuries.

Throughout the marathon NBA regular season, teams need players to step up at different times. It took a little while for Achiuwa to find his way with the Knicks, but he has come up big with so many key players missing time in the frontcourt.

When healthy, Achiuwa won’t be in the starting lineup and will see his minutes decrease with the second unit. But, his defensive versatility is a weapon Thibodeau will be able to deploy at different times, as he provides the team with a legitimate backup 4 and someone who can play the 5 in a pinch.

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