Knicks’ Unheralded Big Man Projected to Leave in Free Agency

Knicks big men Isaiah Hartenstein and Precious Achiuwa

Getty Isaiah Hartenstein #55 of the New York Knicks celebrates with teammate Precious Achiuwa #5 during the second half against the Chicago Bulls.

New York Knicks‘ unheralded big man Precious Achiuwa is no longer just a throw-in piece in the OG Anunoby trade. But as he continues to play solid minutes in the wake of Julius Randle‘s injury, the risk of losing him gets real for the Knicks.

Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report predicts Achiuwa, a restricted free agent this summer, to sign an offer sheet with the rebuilding Utah Jazz which the Knicks do not match.

“Between his age, established ability and growth potential, the Knicks will have reasons to want him back. Then again, others will have those same incentives to pursue him, and they could really test New York’s resolve by putting a healthy offer sheet in front of him. It’s possible the Knicks wind up viewing him as the most cost-efficient option among their interior free agents, but if inks an early offer, New York might have to let him walk in order to keep the financial books as clean as possible for their other, higher-priority free agents,” Buckley wrote.

The Jazz will be a major player in free agency with more than $40 million in cap space. On the other hand, the Knicks do not have cap space and expect to operate as an over-the-cap team for the 2024-25 season.

While Achiuwa’s minutes fluctuated since Mitchell Robinson’s return, he had shown enough to be effective in a larger role which could entice teams to pounce and pry him away from New York.

Achiuwa averaged 10.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.6 blocks in 31 minutes and plus-11 across 29 games between Randle’s shoulder injury on January 27 and Robinson’s return from ankle surgery on April 2. He helped the Knicks stay afloat with a 16-13 record during that span.

Precious Achiuwa’s Switchability

Achiuwa’s versatility as a power forward and small-ball center gives coach Tom Thibodeau a swiss-knife army in his back pocket.

“When teams go small what Precious gives you is the ability to switch so I thought that was important for us as well,” Thibodeau told reporters after they beat the Chicago Bulls in their season finale to clinch the No. 2 seed.

Achiuwa gave the Knicks a huge lift in the overtime to pull out the 120-119 win.

On top of Achiuwa’s switchability in the frontcourt, his toughness and hustle are his key attributes that opposing teams would love to have.

Achiuwa leads the league in 3.8 loose balls recovered per 36 minutes while his eight total loose balls recovered are tied for eighth.

Knicks’ Higher Priorities

Achiuwa has a $6.2 million qualifying offer but he could easily fetch more than that in a free agency market bereft of big men.

But Achiuwa is not on the top of the Knicks’ priority list especially with Randle coming back and Robinson returning to full health. Unless one of Randle and Robinson is traded in the offseason, Achiuwa projects to be just a depth piece when the Knicks roster is healthy.

On top of the Knicks’ priorities are re-signing both their unrestricted free agents Anunoby and Isaiah Hartenstein.

And then their stars Jalen Brunson and Randle are both eligible to sign lucrative extensions this summer.


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