clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2021-22 Knicks Player Review: Quentin Grimes

The piece we never knew we needed?

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With the Summer League right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to look back at last year’s first round pick, Quentin Grimes. Rewind to this time last year: Coming off of a surprising campaign in which they catapulted themselves to the 4th seed and made their first playoff appearance since 2013, there was a lot of pressure on the team and the front office to build on the momentum of the season and bring in a piece that would take this team to the next level.

With picks 19 and 21 in their hands, the Knicks had the potential of adding some key pieces. Instead, they ended up trading them away. Fans want to see their teams picking high in the draft, so when the Knicks ended up only having the 25th pick in the first round, fans were a bit upset.

Fast forward to 2022, and “upset” is one the last words Knicks fans will use to describe the Quentin Grimes pick. Coming out of the University of Houston, Grimes was projected to be a great shooter with some really solid defensive skills. He was all that and then some during his rookie campaign.

He didn’t get a lot of minutes early on...not surprising for a rook playing on a Tom Thibodeau team. The Knicks started the season 5-1 with him barely playing, so the decision to sit Grimes seemed to be working out alright for New York. But when the Knicks started to struggle, Thibodeau leaned on the starters and the vets even more. When Grimes finally started to get his opportunity due to some injuries and rotation shakeups, he made the most out of it. On December 12th, the Knicks welcomed the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks to the Garden. With RJ Barrett sidelined and Kemba Walker benched, Grimes got his first NBA start. He did not disappoint, erupting for 27 points on 9/17 from the field and 7/13 from deep while playing some really good defense and also adding three assists, three rebounds, and three steals.

Knicks fans were excited that this under-hyped shooting guard went from not playing to suddenly looking like one of the Knicks’ best players. Within hours of the game there were fans begging Thibodeau to start Grimes the rest of the season.

Unfortunately for both Grimes and the Knicks, he would miss 21 of the 55 games left in the season. He was first sidelined due to COVID protocols the day after his breakout performance against the Bucks. When he returned, he had a very nice 25-game stretch where he averaged 8.1 PPG 2.6 RPG, 1.3 APG, and 0.9 SPG in 23.1 mpg. While the numbers don’t necessarily stand out, he played really well overall. He was playing some great individual perimeter defense on some of the league’s best offensive players and was starting to look like one of the league’s best spot up shooters. This stretch was highlighted by a 20-point, performance against the Trail Blazer on February 12th, which was followed up by a 19-point performance just two days later against the Thunder. Fans were expecting the rookie to continue gaining playing time and hitting his stride in the second half of the season.

Sadly, Grimes would suffer a knee injury (partially dislocated patella) against the Miami Heat in the Knicks’ first game back from the All-Star break and he only played in six games the rest of the way. In those six games, Grimes averaged just 3.7 PPG in 14.9 MPG and he just wasn’t moving the same way. The numbers weren’t there, the playing time wasn’t there, and the eye test also wasn’t there. And while sports fans can often get stuck in a “what have you done for me lately” attitude, it’s important for Knicks fans to take the 25-game sample size mentioned earlier over the few games he played in to to end the season.

Grimes and his rookie season cannot be judged solely by his stats. His numbers on the season, much like his game, aren’t going to wow you at first glance. The 6 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 assists per game on 40.1% from the field don’t really scream “first-round pick” at all. But if you watched him when he was healthy and getting big minutes, you would know that Grimes lived up to, and even went beyond, expectation. His three-point shooting, a product of his crisp and near-perfect shooting motion, was as advertised. His defense was better than expected for a rookie, and he has all the intangibles that winning teams always seem to have. He isn’t afraid of taking big shots, he hustles for every loose ball, has zero ego. And you know he works hard because if he didn’t, then Thibodeau wouldn’t have played him.

In Grimes, the Knicks may have found the ideal role player. Players who can shoot and defend — 3-and-D players as we now call them — are one of the hottest commodities in the league. And Grimes fits that bill perfectly. He is a knock-down shooter who, with his ability to play without the ball and still be effective, can space the floor for guys like RJ Barrett and Julius Randle (if he is still here next season). During his rookie campaign, Grimes showcased an amazing ability to not just hit shots from beyond the arc but he also proved to be great at reading defenses and sliding in to the open space. So instead of relying on Randle or Barrett to find the passing angles, Grimes gets himself open shots and makes it easier on the ballhandlers by creating the angles himself.

Grimes is already one of the best perimeter defenders on the team, along with fellow rookie Deuce McBride. The former Houston Cougars guard was always active with his hands and was also a really good team defender when asked to rotate or close out as well. And with more work on his body and more experience in the league, he should obviously continue to get better at both of those skillsets while adding more to the other aspects of his game. While he will most likely never turn into what you would call a star, we should still be ecstatic that the Knicks have a young wing who showed the potential of becoming a great role player, one that can slot in with anyone and play in any system.