Immanuel Quickley has been named to the All-Rookie Second Team, an impressive prize considering the 25th pick in the first round of the 2020 NBA draft famously received a D+ from CBS Sports.
Look, we’re not going to spend forever harping on that D+ grade, but we will spend a few more sentences on it. Only one other player selected in the first round scored worse in the eyes of CBS Sports on draft night, Jalen Smith, who was picked 10th by the Phoenix Suns. Meanwhile, the Obi Toppin pick got an A+. The point here is that it’s difficult to determine who’s going to succeed in the NBA and who is going to struggle, and there was no reason for CBS Sports to be such meanies on draft night about Quickley.
Okay, let’s get to the good stuff. IQ just barely missed making the All-Rookie First Team, finishing six points behind Jae-Sean Tate of the Houston Rockets, who received 154 total points to Quickley’s 148. Was Quickley snubbed? Maybe, but the truth of that matter is that a late first round pick earned All-Rookie honors, and based on the voting he’s essentially a First Teamer.
The 2020-21 NBA All-Rookie Second Team:— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) June 18, 2021
Patrick Williams pic.twitter.com/WFRhg7ZcxW
IQ received 51 First Team votes; the next highest First Team vote total among players who landed on the Second Team was 9, for Desmond Bane of the Memphis Grizzlies. In terms of total points (each First Team vote counts for 2 points, while each Second Team vote counts for 1 point), Quickley blew his fellow Second Teamers out of the water, finishing with 60 more points than Bane.
As a neophyte, Quickley averaged 11.4 points per game on just under 40% from the field and about 39% from three, plus 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 19.4 minutes per game. And he didn’t waste much time before showing out. In an early season game against the Atlanta Hawks, IQ displayed all of his tantalizing potential, pouring in 16 points on 4-7 from beyond the arc.
From there, it was off to the races, with Knicks fans begging Tom Thibodeau to consider giving Quickley some of Elfrid Payton’s minutes, and perhaps even slotting the rookie in as the starting point guard. Before long, Quickley was putting up spectacular performances with relative consistency. There was a four-game stretch in mid-to-late January that included his first 20-plus point outing and saw him average 17.5 points on 45% from deep, along with 4.3 assists.
Then, on January 24, in a three-point loss in Portland, Quickley totaled 31 points on 9-18 shooting, including 5-8 from three.
He finished January with back-to-back 25-point efforts, and for the entire season served as a spark plug off the bench who could come in and immediately generate offense. His floaters were sublime, and he displayed a veteran savvy in drawing contact and getting free throws, where he shot 89% for the year.
He had his ups and downs, but for the most part, Quickley looked like a legitimate NBA player who made the Knicks better when he was on the court. Was Thibs wrong to keep Quickley under lock and key all season? We really don’t know for sure. There’s certainly a world where he was handed the reins and succeeded, but it’s also possible that bringing him along slowly was the right move. This year’s Knicks were flawed, and maybe Thibodeau took the long view with IQ.
Despite Thibs’ shackles, Quickley was able to show the world what he can do. And as it would turn out, what he can do is pretty darn impressive. Quickley finished the regular season 8th among rookies in points per game and 5th in free throw percentage among rookies who averaged at least 10 minutes per game, and, as noted by Tommy Beer, was first among qualified rookies in offensive rating, defensive rating and net rating.
Immanuel Quickley shot 39% from 3-point range and 89% from the FT line in 2020-21.— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) June 15, 2021
The only other rookie in NBA history to attempt more than 300 three-pointers and match or exceed those percentages was:
Steph Curry in 2009-2010https://t.co/CATAtGgS9R
Quickley stretches defenses because he’s capable of catching fire and draining deep three-pointers. But he’s also a crafty dribbler who sneaks into the lane, knows when a defender is at his back and can stop on a dime to draw the foul while putting up a floater. He might not be a starting point guard, but his skills mean he deserves to be on the floor more often than not. If it turns out that he’s a bench guy, then a future Sixth Man of the Year Award isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Truly, Quickley is that much of a game changer. In the Knicks’ first postseason game against the Hawks, IQ came off the bench and brought the momentum with him. His presence made it feel like the Knicks had found something that might work.
Immanuel Quickley scored his first playoff points on a 3 from way down town.— Big Blue Express (@bigbluexpress) May 23, 2021
Alas, Atlanta outplayed the Knicks and knocked them out of the playoffs, but the Knicks exited the season knowing they had one of the best young shooters in the entire league. What does he have in store for year two?