NBA sources disclose how Miami Heat played role in New York Knicks trading for O.G. Anunoby

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat ended the New York Knicks’ season last season, and that victory reportedly caused the Knicks to rethink their plans and may have played a role in their blockbuster trade for O.G. Anunoby this season.

“And league sources said there was an internal recognition that, after losing to the Miami Heat in the East semifinals last season, and fighting for a top-6 spot in the conference this season, [Tom] Thibodeau had maximized the team’s existing group,” wrote Tim Bontemps.

After upsetting the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, the Heat eliminated the Knicks in the second round last season, defeating them in a six-game series. Miami then went on to knock off the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals to reach the 2023 NBA Finals, which the Heat lost to the Denver Nuggets.

This season, the Heat and Knicks are again established as playoff contenders that hold similar records approaching the halfway point of the season. Entering play Friday, the Heat have a 20-14 mark that is good for fourth place in the conference, while the Knicks are just one game behind them at 19-15 but sit in eight place.

Anunoby had been one of the hottest names in the trade rumor mill for quite some time, and the Heat were linked to the former Toronto Raptors forward almost a year ago. But the Knicks were the ones who finally wound up with the defensive standout, sending Immanuel Quickley, RJ Barrett and a second-round pick in the 2024 NBA Draft to Toronto in exchange for the 26-year-old.

He is expected to improve the Knicks’ defense while also giving them a competent 3-point shooter. In 27 games for the Raptors this season, Anunoby averaged 15.1 points per game while making 37.4 percent of his 3-point attempts.

New York has won its two games with Anunoby so far, including a victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are the top team in the Western Conference standings. He has scored 28 points while contributing 14 rebounds and four steals in those two games.

One NBA executive said he believes the trade helps the Knicks separate themselves from other similar Eastern Conference teams like the Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers.

Miami could get its first look at Anunoby in a Knicks uniform when the teams play at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 27, maybe setting the stage for a possible playoff rematch somewhere down the line.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. His introduction to the business included the legendary Heat-Knicks rivalry from the 1990s.