Anunoby has missed the Knicks' past five games resting his ailing elbow but ultimately decided a surgical procedure gave him the best chance of helping the Knicks in the stretch run. He's expected to be able to resume basketball activities in three weeks, placing his return to play sometime in early March with between 20 and 15 games remaining on the Knicks' schedule.
OG Anunoby took the Knicks to a new level
The New York Knicks acquired OG Anunoby on December 30th, 2023, and he instantly turned them into one of the best teams in the league. Since January 1st, the Knicks are 16-3 and own a plus-14.0 net rating over that span. His introduction coincided with the Knicks going from a poor defensive unit to an elite group. Before his arrival, the Knicks had a 117.3 defensive rating, but that figure is an exceptional 107.5 in 2024.
The Knicks' January surge has proved that when fully healthy, they are a team capable of winning multiple playoff series, but it has also given them a cushion. Anunoby is vital to the Knicks hitting their ceiling, and having him fully healthy for the stretch run and playoffs is far more consequential than jockeying for playoff seeding.
Why the OG Anunoby injury news is not a worst-case scenario
His surgery also coincides with a schedule break for the Knicks. The All-Star break is in a week and provides the Knicks and Anunoby a week of recovery without games being played. Functionally, Anunoby is missing two weeks to solve a potentially chronic problem.
Elbow injuries aren't common in the NBA, but any form of discomfort in the shooting elbow is cause for concern. It's often forgotten because it's unseen, but for Anunoby to hit 39.1 percent of his 3s on 4.6 attempts per game as he has with the Knicks, he needs to get up hundreds of practice shots. In the five games before he was shut down, he shot 34.8 percent from three. Correlation is not causation, but trying to manage his elbow pain instead of stopping it at the source could have seen Anunoby's shooting continue to deteriorate.
The Knicks are in a fantastic position, considering the plethora of injuries to their roster. They're fourth in the Eastern Conference at 33-18, but with the Philadelphia 76ers losing Joel Embiid for an extended period, they're in very little danger of losing out on a home playoff series in the first round.
Preparing for a long playoff run should be front and center to every decision the Knicks make. And having a healthy Anunoby gives the Knicks their best chance to make the Eastern Conference Finals in decades. The worst-case scenario for the Knicks is if Anunoby's injury were to linger, sapping his effectiveness and potentially becoming unbearable at the most inopportune time. Instead, the Knicks have two weeks of basketball to weather before the cavalry will arrive just in time for a playoff charge.