While it may be temporary, Precious Achiuwa has had a surprisingly positive impact on the Knicks’ success as they’ve dealt with injuries.
The Knicks’ frontcourt was thrown into a tailspin after starting center Mitchell Robinson went down in early December with a severe ankle injury. Some recent positive developments have Mitch potentially returning later this season, but for an extended period of time, the Knicks have had to survive without their stud big.
Thankfully the Knicks invested in a backup big, knowing Robinson’s propensity to get hurt. Isaiah Hartenstein has been awesome for New York: a beast on the boards and a true winning player who moves the needle arguably more than Robinson does, depending on who you talk to. I-Hart has done a tremendous job of holding down the fort and will continue to be the Knicks’ featured center until the return of Robinson.
More recently though, another man had stepped up to the plate and that man is Bronx-native and 24-year-old, Precious Achiuwa. Viewed as a throw-in in the OG Anunoby trade, the former Memphis Tiger and 20th overall selection in the 2020 Draft spent some time with the Miami Heat and most of his career with the Raptors. Achiuwa throughout his young career has shown himself to be an athletic but a bit undersized big who is fine as a bench option as a backup power forward or center.
With the Knicks having I-Hart and Jericho Sims in-house already, the expectation was that we would see little action from Achiuwa, especially after his dreadful beginning half-month or so in the orange and blue, where he looked lost and barely contributed in his time on the floor. Despite the low expectations, plenty of Knicks fans had their pitchforks out and were calling for him to be nailed to the bench.
Big Effective Minutes
Recently, however, Achiuwa has responded nicely and, for the time, shut his detractors up. In his last nine games, Achiuwa has recorded five double-digit scoring games, along with four double-digit rebounding outputs. Down the stretch of games, his energy has been awesome, grabbing key boards, pouring in timely buckets, and always hustling; in short, he’s fit right in with this year’s Knicks squad. While not a great defender, Achiuwa makes up for his shortcomings with raw passion and grit.
In standard Thibs fashion, Achiuwa, particularly recently, has been receiving an exorbitant amount of minutes, logging 30-plus minutes in each of the last six games, including 40-plus in the last four, per ESPN Stats. For reference, Achiuwa did not play more than 25 minutes in any game this season while a member of the Toronto Raptors.
A lot of the reason Achiuwa is getting a ton of burn is because of the absence of Robinson and Julius Randle and the overall ineffectiveness of Jericho Sims and Taj Gibson, and likely we won’t see much of Achiuwa in the postseason if Robinson is back, but even if temporarily, he has given the Knicks a nice lift in a pivotal part of their regular season.
— NBA (@NBA) January 27, 2024
Balance with Hartenstein
Alongside Precious, even with his big minutes coming into play, we have not seen a dip in Isaiah Hartenstein’s play, showing that these two guys are capable of working together in harmony. Hartenstein, a bigger and more tenacious rebounder and shot-blocker, is a better player than Achiuwa and is currently the number one center option that you want in the game against premier bigs. Despite this, Precious, while not a knockdown shooter by any stretch, has the capability to beat you from the perimeter and can draw larger defenders away from the basket, allowing Hartenstein and others to clean up down low or grab easier boards.
Just based on simple talent, Achiuwa isn’t going to complement I-Hart as well as Julius Randle has/would if he was healthy, however, he has done a fine job in playing his role and ensuring the Knicks continue to operate like the well-oiled machine they’ve been in 2024.