Since the OG Anunoby trade, Miles McBride's Knicks role has grown -- and he's rising to the occasion

In the wake of the surprise OG Anunoby trade that shook up the Knicks' roster, New York found itself bereft of guard creators. After all, it moved two of them in Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett.

The Knicks could follow suit with another trade before the deadline to fill this hole, perhaps by bringing in veterans like Malcolm Brogdon or Tyus Jones to help off the bench. Role players have stepped up in the meantime, perhaps none more than Miles "Deuce" McBride, their 2021 second-round draft pick who's only appeared in spot minutes over two NBA seasons.

Now holding the backup point guard spot, McBride has the most responsibility of his short career and is rising to the occasion.

Jan 9, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Miles McBride (2) warms up prior to the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Some context first: The Knicks drafted McBride 36th overall in 2021, after spending two years at West Virginia and developing a junkyard dog reputation for his hounding perimeter defense. His offense needed some work, though. And with the Knicks coming off a playoff season with two new guard acquisitions in free agency, McBride would have to earn his way up the rotation.

His rookie year was largely garbage-time minutes, save for a handful of games when multiple guys were out in April. The good news was that in six G League games, McBride looked too good for Westchester. He averaged 27.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 11.2 assists on 50 percent shooting from three. The bad news was that his shooting clip fell below 30 percent in the big leagues, and he generally looked uncomfortable offensively.

Still, the defense immediately looked legitimate, even out of a rookie point guard. His sophomore season in 2022-23 saw him enter the rotation in December, when head coach Tom Thibodeau had to reshuffle his team to turn around the season. With Quickley off-guard in the bench unit, McBride gave the team a real jolt defensively.

A couple months later, the team acquired Josh Hart without giving up a rotation piece and pushed McBride out of the regulars. In the 34 games in between, he averaged 4.1 points and 1.2 assists in 15.3 minutes on 33.1 percent shooting from the field and 31.2 percent on threes. This wasn't the offensive output that would cement him in the rotation, but his defense continued to impress.

He even had a moment in the playoffs, guarding Donovan Mitchell effectively in front of the Garden faithful. Though still developing, Knicks fans loved his grit, showering him in "Deeeeuuuuuuuccceee" chants when checking into ball games.

But fan favoritism only gets you so far -- at some point, you have to produce. The Knicks felt that McBride would after the Anunoby trade, signing him to a three-year, $13 million extension, and the early returns are promising. In seven games, McBride is playing 13.4 minutes a night, putting up seven points, 1.6 assists and 0.4 turnovers in that span.

Jan 9, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Miles McBride (2) takes a three point shot past Portland Trail Blazers guard Rayan Rupert (72) in the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest plus -- he's knocked down 12 of his 24 triples, his best shooting stretch of his young career. These threes haven't plainly been catch-and-shoot spot-up shots, though. He side-stepped closeouts, stepped into shots as a trailer, set and fired off movement and relocation -- even making a three off the dribble in the pick-and-roll. This is much more in line with what we've seen in college and Westchester, not the oddly tentative and inaccurate McBride in the league thus far.

If he can further capture his shooting potential, he can be a real player in the NBA. He's largely played alongside Julius Randle, who's done most of the creating in those lineups. Still, McBride spreading the floor, creating out of drives and still playing strong defense has been key to these bench units keeping afloat.

He's looked much more confident and comfortable, even if the advanced ball-handling and traditional point guard stuff isn't there yet. If he can keep being a useful cog in the machine though, that in itself is a major development.

It's often a tough balance, developing fringe talent while trying to compete with your very best options. But the best teams have to toe that line if they want to maintain any depth while chasing upgrades at the top.

For the moment, the Knicks appear to have done so successfully with McBride. He's seen this era's low and high points but continued working and now finds himself in position to contribute. If he keeps playing like this, it'll be hard to take him out of it.