The Knicks are deservingly receiving high marks for their trade deadline after dealing Quentin Grimes, salary filler and two second-round picks for Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks. In one move, New York addressed multiple short-term and postseason needs, without so much as giving up a future first-round pick or top-six player.
More than that, they’ve set themselves up to be legitimate contenders once fully healthy. Here’s how.
Although we only saw 14 games -- or about a month -- of OG Anunoby as a Knick, the results were overwhelmingly positive. There were 12 wins, including comfortable ones over the defending champion Denver Nuggets, top-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves and perennial-playoff-threat Philadelphia 76ers.
What stood out -- and the Knicks ultimately bet on -- was their new starting lineup of Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, Anunoby, Julius Randle and Isaiah Hartenstein. In 180 minutes, the group outscored opponents by a whopping 16.6 points per 100 possessions, the third-best mark in the league this season among lineups to have played that much.
The statistics may not be enough to sway some, but that is a championship-ready lineup. Two standalone offensive engines in Brunson (who, yes, is the guy) and Randle, who can get you 30 each, surrounded by two secondary scorers that are dangerous at three levels -- on or off the ball -- and a defense that has all-league talent and little to no weak points.
The chemistry was immediate with this unit and could look even better with added time to bond. DiVincenzo’s offense has blown up since, and Anunoby began looking to score more aggressively before the injury.
Believe it or not, but the Knicks very likely believe that this is a contending group, hence little talk of breaking up that five via trade this deadline. The downside was their bench.
New York was left a bit lacking in the creation and depth departments following the trade, which only got worse with this recent wave of injury. They were largely covered at the five position between the addition of Precious Achiuwa and Jericho Sims, but their backcourt and wings needed work.
Miles McBride stepped up huge as the backup point guard, currently having a breakout season that may keep him in the rotation for the long term. However, he’s not a pure point or seasoned penetrator or distributor, excelling through defense and his 3-point shooting instead.
That left an offense built around a few pet sets but mostly individual shot and playmaking talents craving some creation. Randle and Brunson had to carry bigger loads with bench units, the now-dealt Malachi Flynn took on minutes, and Grimes ultimately underwhelmed despite having some moments.
The reserve lineups were far from a disaster, but you could see them fold against tough teams, and they put enough strain on the starters to warrant an upgrade for the playoffs. This was a much bigger upgrade than anticipated.
New York acquired two dependable rotation pieces -- one 20-point playoff-ready multi-position shooter -- for the price of one, giving up promise and potential for guaranteed-or-your-money-back veteran production. Bogdanovic averages 20.2 points on 41.5 percent shooting from 3, while Burks puts up 12.6 on 40 percent.
That’s 43.7 points per 36 minutes, coming in, to 12.9 going out -- a massive jump in production. Bogie and Burks are also going to see their roles change from offensive centerpieces for an all-time horrible Pistons team to supplementary scorers on a competitive Knicks squad.
Both are primarily knockdown shooters off or on the ball, but each can leverage that threat into off the dribble scoring and creation. They’re not advanced in that regard, but can both run the pick and roll in spurts, and will make for excellent Josh Hart or DiVincenzo-like gap fillers and connectors for the Knicks stars.
They’re nothing to write home about defensively, but know their roles and will bring the effort required. Because they each play multiple positions, it offers Tom Thibodeau a lot of flexibility with his lineups.
The Knicks could go super big with Burks at the point, Bogdanovic at the two, Anunoby, Randle and a center. They also have many more combinations for a Randle-at-the-five lineup with their newfound wing depth.
Many expected New York to swing for an Immanuel Quickley-type sparkplug like Malcolm Brogdon to make up for his absence. Instead, the Knicks decided to secure multiple guys who aren’t at that creation level individually but can get there in the aggregate.
That extra depth when injuries and hot/cold streaks take hold, in the regular season or playoffs, is huge. These two can get scorching hot, giving Thibodeau the option to close with alternative lineups.
Fully healthy, with their potent starting lineup, the Knicks bench will now include Bogdanovic, Hart, one of Achiuwa or hopefully Mitchell Robinson, Burks and McBride. That one of their most reliable scorers from the 2021 postseason run and latest breakout prospect can be considered end-of-bench luxuries is a testament to the growth they’ve undergone.
With this trade, New York is fully ready to compete for a championship.