My brain hurts to think it, my mouth burns to say it, but for his benefit and the team’s, maybe Immanuel Quickley should have been traded this summer.
Quickley is poised to enter the third year of his rookie contract with the New York Knicks. Since being selected 25th in the 2020 NBA Draft, he’s often been their most thrilling player to watch. Exhibit A: the December game against Houston in which he canned a season-high seven three-pointers on ten attempts. When this kid is cooking, it is Must See TV.
There’s no denying that the 23-year-old is driven to improve. Quickley is known to return to the gym after games to get up shots. I can’t find the quote but recall Obi Toppin—back-up power forward and IQ BFF—quipping about the persistent guard trying to rouse him for hoops in the middle of the night.
Dedication like that usually results in improvement. Add on his experience, and this should be the year that Quickley leaps to the next-level. I’m sure the team wants to accommodate that, and recently Ian Begley wrote for SNY.tv:
Will the Knicks try to balance minutes of veterans and young players? Or will they lean toward veterans, as they did in the first half of 2021-22?
Most of those questions are unanswered at the moment, but there is an expectation that Immanuel Quickley will get an increased role early on in 2022-23, per people familiar with the matter. Quickley averaged 27.5 minutes per game after the All-Star break. He had several strong outings as a playmaker in that time frame and several solid shooting stretches.
So it makes sense for New York to give Quickley an expanded role early on in 2022-23.
Unfortunately for IQ, truly leveling up in New York might be difficult, where the point and shooting guard positions are crowded.
Given Rose’s injury history and age, what’s a reasonable estimate? That Derrick will play half the season? If so, there should be some opportunities for Quickley as the point guard on the second unit…if Thibs considers him to be a point guard. We have no assurance of that because the coach repeatedly deferred to combo guard / small forward Alec Burks over IQ last season. In fact, it’s more likely that Thibs runs Brunson for 40 minutes per night instead of letting Quickley drive. And wherefore art thou, Deuce McBride? I hopeth thou shalt be set freeth from thine bencheth!
The situation at shooting guard is even murkier. Evan Fournier held the lead spot last year, on his way to setting the Knicks season-record for three-pointers (241). Rookie Quinten Grimes showed a sweet shooting stroke and distinguished himself as arguably the Knicks’ best defender, convincing many that he deserves to be a starter.
Those two, and IQ, will likely duke it out this pre-season for the starting role. The winner gets the glory, the runner-up will be featured in the second squad, and the bronze medalist of this particular contest will get whatever time is left over.
Fournier is slated to make $18M this season. The front office will be displeased, one imagines, for a player making that much moolah to ride the pine, and Thibs historically leans on veterans (at lest to start), so it’s unlikely that the Frenchman will play third fiddle. As for Grimes, he was spared from trade discussions this summer and is rumored to be a favorite of the coach (justifiably—he’s excellent at both ends of the floor). Hence, unless he stinks this pre-season, Grimes is gonna get his time.
Another possibility is that Thibs will substitute Grimes for small forward RJ Barrett, thereby allowing Quentin and Quickley to share the floor. Could happen, but remember that RJ played about 35 minutes per game each of the last two seasons and will surely do so again. And what about that other wing, Cam Reddish, who’s a more natural fit at the three position? Isn’t it time to let him eat?
We saw tweeted photos of IQ chilling with Donovan Mitchell throughout the summer, inspiring hope that those two would join forces for the 2022-23 campaign. Mitchell went to Cleveland instead, and Quickley is better off for it. Donovan would have been yet another guard hoovering up his minutes.
Alternatively, we heard rumors that Quickley was included in trade offers to the Utah Jazz for Mitchell. This kind of deal made sense for the Knicks—maybe not trading for Spida specifically, but for an All-Star who would upgrade a position at MSG. And it would benefit IQ to get in on the ground floor of a team overhaul, maybe even as a cornerstone. Win-win, as the kids say.
The ideal scenario would have been to unload Fournier in order to free up time for Quickley and Grimes. The off-season isn’t over, of course, and team president Leon Rose could still swing a trade. Yet, with training camp looming—mark your calendars, September 27—the likelihood of a move fades with each passing day.
The onus is on Quickley to make an irrefutable case for himself in training camp and pre-season and force Thibs to creatively assemble his line-ups and substitutions to accommodate his deep bench. Whether the coach is capable of that...well, let’s hope.