Knicks' OG Anunoby to return on five-year, $212.5 million deal: Report

Knicks' OG Anunoby to return on five-year, $212.5 million deal: Report

The New York Knicks are having a very good week.

Knicks star OG Anunoby intends to re-sign with the team on a five-year, $212.5 million contract, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Anunoby reached unrestricted free agency by declining the player option for the final season of the four-year, $72 million contract he signed with the Raptors in December 2020. Three years after inking that agreement — a period that saw Anunoby average 16.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38.2% from 3-point range and emerging as one of the league’s most versatile defensive stoppers — Toronto traded him to the Knicks in exchange for forward RJ Barrett and guard Immanuel Quickley.

From the Raptors’ perspective, the trade served two purposes. In Quickley and Barrett, Toronto added two pieces to its rebuilding core who might fit more snugly next to newly maxed-out franchise cornerstone Scottie Barnes than Anunoby or fellow like-sized and similarly styled forward Pascal Siakam, who was later spun off to a Pacers team that will happily bring him back after their sprint to the Eastern Conference finals. The move also allowed the Raptors — who had “dismissed offers of multiple first-rounders for Anunoby during previous transaction cycles,” according to Yahoo Sports senior NBA reporter Jake Fischer — to avoid losing Anunoby for nothing should he decide to test the unrestricted market and find a deal richer than the four-year, $118 million extension that represented the maximum Toronto could offer him.

Anunoby aided his efforts to find that richer deal with his play at Madison Square Garden, where he immediately proved a hand-in-glove fit on both ends of the floor for Tom Thibodeau’s team, helping lift the Knicks to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and their first 50-win season in 11 years.

Anunoby averaged 14.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 34.9 minutes per game across 23 games for the Knicks during the regular season, and 15.1 points, 6 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 36 minutes a night in nine appearances during New York’s playoff run. Both stints were interrupted by injuries: a loose bone fragment in his right elbow that required surgery, with a subsequent post-return flare-up, that sidelined him for most of the final two and a half months of the regular season, followed by a strained left hamstring that cost him Games 3 through 6 against Indiana in the second round, and limited him to only a five-minute cameo in the Knicks’ Game 7 loss.

While the injury concerns surrounding a player who’s topped 50 games just once in the past four seasons had to give interested suitors at least some pause, the massive impact that Anunoby has proven he can have on both ends of the floor ensured that the market for his services would remain frothy.

Guys with the combination of size — 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, with a 7-foot-2 wingspan — athleticism, agility, instincts and aptitude to legitimately defend anyone are rare. According to The BBall Index’s positional charting data, only 10 players who logged at least 1,000 minutes last season divided their defensive responsibilities across all five positions as evenly as Anunoby: Jalen Williams, James Harden, Jaylen Brown, Kelly Oubre Jr., Malcolm Brogdon, Moses Moody, Naji Marshall, Ochai Agbaji, Paul George and Taurean Prince. Of those 11 players, Anunoby faced by far the toughest slate of offensive opponents, finishing in the 98th percentile in average matchup difficulty and the 99th percentile in how often he checked the opposition’s highest-usage playmakers.

Guys who can do that while also spacing the floor for teammates by shooting well above league-average from 3-point range? Even rarer. Anunoby has knocked down 38.3% of his long balls over the last five seasons, attempting 5.6 triples per 36 minutes of floor time — a combination of volume, accuracy and consistency that only 35 players have managed over the last half-decade. He’s become particularly lethal from the corners, drilling 40% of his corner looks in each of the last five seasons — and better than 44% in each of the last three.

Add that to the defensive event creation — on-ball steals, secondary rim protection, deflections on help rotations — that can help juice a transition attack, and his (occasional) ability to put the ball on the deck and create a look for himself in the midrange when a possession bogs down, and Anunoby becomes a force multiplier, elevating a team on both ends of the court just by stepping onto it. That certainly proved true during his half-season in New York: The Knicks won Anunoby’s minutes in all 23 regular-season games he played for them, went 26-6 in the 32 regular- and postseason games for which he suited up, and outscored opponents by a mammoth 16.3 points per 100 possessions in his minutes.

That kind of all-around impact is worth its weight in gold to a would-be contender — and now, it has earned Anunoby a contract that will carry the about-to-turn-27-year-old through his likely athletic prime, and more than double his career earnings in the process.