Trading OG Anunoby to Toronto wouldn't have come as a shock, as he and several other interested teams have been rumored for over a year.
However, the surprise was the timing of the trade on December 30 and the amount the Raptors got back. After years of seeming hesitation, the Raptors made a move, and the Knicks paid a bonus for the player when his contract expired.
Who won this trade and who lost? Let's break it all down.
This starts with the details of the trade itself:
New York receives: OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa, Malachi Flynn
Toronto receives: Immanuel Quickley, RJ Barrett, 2024 second-round pick (via Detroit, likely pick 31 or 32)
(Also, both groups created small trade exceptions.)
Winner: OG Anunoby
Anunoby was going to get his pay no matter what happened. He's a free agent (he'll opt out of the $19.9 million he's owed next season because he's due at least $12 million annually on the open market) and there were teams lining up to pay him.
Instead, Anunoby is the winner of this trade because of the opportunities. He didn't quite fit in with the Raptors, and his usage rate diminished season after season as Scottie Barnes took on a larger role (as he should have, Anunoby is great off the ball but never became the shot creator the Raptors had hoped for). Combine that with Pascal Siakam on the ball and Anunoby was under pressure in Toronto.
He'll be a better fit on offense with the Knicks, where his shooting will be needed and he won't be asked to make as many shots next to Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle (the offense will be run by them). Anunoby becomes better suited in a brighter spotlight and that will be good for his career — and his next paycheck.
Lackluster winner: New York Knicks
New York didn't lose in this trade, they got an MVP in the trade. Anunoby is an elite possession defender, works well off the ball on the wing, is a more efficient shooter than Barrett, and should fit like a puzzle piece next to Brunson. In the Eastern Conference where a playoff run for the Knicks would mean facing a group of Jayson Tatum, Jimmy Butler, Tyrese Maxey, Damian Lillard and Donovan Mitchell (among others), with Anunoby's defense having issues.
Also, the Knicks kept their cap space dry by not giving up even a single first-round pick — if the star becomes available via trade this summer (or ever) he'll still be on the table with a strong offer.
However, letting go of Quickley hurts — it's not that radical to think he's the best player in the trade three years from now. Would it have been better for New York to send Barrett and a first-round pick (plus salary padding) for Anunoby and keep Quickley? Would Toronto have done it?
Also, even with the addition of Achiuwa (and perhaps Flynn, if he's able to crack the rotation), the Knicks' bench has gotten worse. More falls on Quentin Grimes and Josh Hart now.
Winner: Immanuel Quickley
Like many in the league, Quickley appeared to be caught off guard by the trade.
As stated above, the best player in this trade today is OG Anunoby. In two seasons, it's not a stretch to say we'll have that question answered by Immanuel Quickley.
For reasons that left Knicks fans frustrated and confused, Tom Thibodeau never seemed to fully trust Quickley. It's not like the Thibs buried him deep on the bench, but Quickley deserved more runs than he was getting while New York's coach had faith in Barrett, especially at critical times in games.
Now Quickley is about to get everything he can handle, and for those who think the Knicks overpaid in this trade, it's basically faith in Quickley. The opportunity came knocking for the goalkeeper.
Loser: Knicks fans
Quickley has been a fan favorite – it's easy to relate to and get behind the overlooked and underutilized guy. Now Knicks fans will watch him go to Toronto, to a roster that needs his precise skill set, and they will see him flourish. That would be a huge punchline, especially if his game continues to develop.
Losers: 76ers, Pistons, any other teams that consider Anunoby a free agent target
The free agent class (or potential trade) this offseason continues to shrink. There was a time when teams were hoping Giannis Antetokounmpo would become available (he extended his contract with the Bucks), or maybe Joel Embiid (he seems happy now). Then there was the class of potential free agents, and Anunoby was at or near the top of teams' lists. He might write it off now. There's no way the Knicks are throwing all of these assets to Toronto without a guarantee from Anunoby and his camp that he'll sign again in New York (while there are rumors he could be at a cut price, we'll believe it when we see them).
Winner: Toronto Raptors
It's not about the details of this trade; They've finally chosen a direction. There seems to be a plan. After letting Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet walk for free, having long relied on a three-forward rotation that didn't work, and with a 12-20 team needing a new direction, the Raptors chose a new one. This is a start.
Whether they won this particular trade is to be determined later. It's too early to judge Toronto for the following reasons: 1) It depends on how Quickley develops; 2) This is not a standalone trade – the Raptors have made it clear they are retooling and this will be Scottie Barnes' team. This means Pascal Siakam will be on the move. What they get in that final trade completes that deal.
However, you can see the way forward for Toronto: start Quickley at the point next to Barnes (which means moving Dennis Schröder to the bench), with Barrett at the three and – for now – Siakam at the four, with Jakob Poeltl at the five and suddenly this is A very good team, a team that fits together better than we've seen in Toronto this season. Quickley and Barnes should thrive alongside each other.
Also, getting Detroit's No. 2 pick, which is essentially a late first-round pick, is a nice win in this trade for Toronto.
Winner: CAA conspiracy theorists
Leon Rose left his job as head of the energy agency CAA to become president of the Knicks. He has since hired Thibodeau, who represents CAA, and drafted CAA player, Jalen Brunson, as a free agent. Now he has to work out a new deal with Anunoby this season and… you guessed it, he's a CAA client.
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