The Knicks’ injury devastation has created a rare opportunity for Precious Achiuwa to become a Knicks’ playoff legend – if he can step up.

Precious Achiuwa was a throw-in in the OG Anunoby trade, Precious Achiuwa was out of the rotation by the end of the Sixers series, and Precious Achiuwa is one of the most important players on the roster for the rest of this playoff run. All three of those statements are true.

I do not think there was anybody who expected the 24-year-old forward to play a major role in the second round. While some fans were clamoring for Thibs to extend the rotation to match up with the fast-paced Pacers, the two-time Coach of the Year showed no such inclination to start the series. The bench played a combined 26:41 in Game 1 with Precious only contributing 4:18 of that time.

However, injuries have taken that choice out of Thibodeau’s hands and now Achiuwa has a chance to prove that he is deserving of the opportunity that fate provided him. The 28 minutes he played in Game 2 were just six minutes fewer than the total time he played in his first seven playoff games as a Knickerbocker. Throughout those first seven games, he had a total of six points on 2-7 shooting. In Game 2 he had eight points on 4-5 shooting.

The two questions that we need to be asking ourselves are: what led to this “breakout” performance and is it sustainable? The first question has an obvious answer: injuries. Mitch’s injury placed Precious as the de-facto backup big and 7th man, while OG’s injury thrust him into the closing lineup. With Anunoby ruled out for Game 3, Precious may be thrust into an even bigger role as a potential starter. Now, the sustainability piece is the more important question because unlike some of his teammates, Hartenstein may not be able to play all 48 minutes, which means Thibs will not have a choice but to play the former five-star recruit.

So, let’s look at what Precious can contribute and how that translates to the hostile playoff environment. Achiuwa might have been a potential card for Thibodeau to play given the success of former Knick Obi Toppin and the lack of a matchup for him.

Now, however, Achiuwa may be playing center when Hartenstein is resting, or, like in the closing lineup on Wednesday night, he might be playing power forward next to him in a bigger lineup. For a team that has 2.5 possible bench options at the absolute most, Achiuwa offers some lineup versatility. The jumbo lineup with Josh Hart, Hartenstein, and Achiuwa should absolutely own the glass, but Achiuwa also offers the option to play smaller and faster as the lone big.

Achiuwa is a high effort player, and while that will not always show up in the box score, it will help him have an impact. This was very apparent during Game 2 where he was running in transition on both sides of the ball and working on every possession. Late in the game, Achiuwa bullied Myles Turner, tapped an offensive rebound to himself, and kicked it out to Donte DiVincenzo. Divo missed but the possession was kept alive and a Pacers transition opportunity was prevented. These are the kinds of plays that Precious’ minutes will be dependent on.

While single-game +/- is a flawed statistic that I refuse to put too much stock into, it is worth noting that Achiuwa was -14 in the 9-point win which doesn’t reflect well on his performance. However, those numbers are a product of the situation and not necessarily his impact on the game. The energy Achiuwa brought off the bench changed the game immediately. He is a dynamic big man unlike any of the other centers in the Knicks’ rotation.

On a historically dominant offensive rebounding team, you are adding another big athletic body to crash the boards and make Myles Turner miserable, though the Pacers have size to throw around too; we have seen Isaiah Jackson and Obi Toppin both contribute in a big way off the bench to add to their high-powered frontcourt of Siakam and Turner.

Offensively, Achiuwa keeps the ball moving and does not contribute on the perimeter, making only 13 three-pointers throughout the season. However, that is not what they need from him, what they need is exactly what he provides. A high-energy rim-runner who tries to dunk everything in sight. For Precious to contribute in the playoffs, he needs to be able to cut into space and finish at the rim. His only buckets in Game 2 came on dunks or layups and that is okay. Whether it is a putback dunk off an offensive rebound or an alley-oop, Achiuwa’s above-the-rim finishing ability can add another layer of offense.

The biggest impact that Achiuwa provides on the court is his transition offense. While the Pacers are the team known for playing fast, the Knicks have shown the ability to get quick layups off steals, rebounds, or even a made basket. When you think of a grab-and-go fast break on the Knicks, you are almost definitely thinking of Josh Hart. Precious, however, also has an elite floor running ability to fill the lanes and finish in transition.

It might be hyperbole to say that Precious Achiuwa has the opportunity to become a Knicks legend, but he does have a chance to be an unsung hero in the best playoff run in two-plus decades. After losing Randle during the season, the Knicks had to overcome a lot, when you add in the losses of Bojan Bogdanovic and Mitchell Robinson, their short bench is now even shorter. The second-half loss of OG Anunoby pushed it even further and left the Knicks beyond short-handed. Deuce McBride and Precious Achiuwa will both be tasked with bigger expectations than originally anticipated. How they live up to those opportunities remains to be seen, but there is little doubt in my mind that they are up for the challenge.

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