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Taking a deeper look at Quentin Grimes’ slow start

Nothing to panic about, but definitely things worth keeping an eye on

San Antonio Spurs v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Quentin Grimes’ season on the offensive end so far has been an interesting one that, much like his NBA career up to this point, has been an odd mix of inconsistency and excellence with some flashes of potential sprinkled on top. The third-year guard is shooting just 41.5% from the field and is averaging just 7.5 PPG, which is significantly lower than the 46.8% he shot last season, and the 11.3 PPG he averaged last season. Making things even more concerning is the fact that he is currently averaging even fewer points per 36 minutes than he did during his rookie season. The declining numbers aren’t just the scoring either as Grimes is averaging just 1.1 APG this season which is a a whole assist per game less than the 2.1 APG he averaged last season.

That being said, it’s still very early on in the season and we’re also less than a week removed from seeing him put on a shooting clinic against the Milwaukee Bucks in a game in which he scored 17 points. And while we’ve seen his shooting be more off and on that we’d like it to be, we’ve also witnessed Grimes continue being effective on fastbreaks and be a solid scorer inside the arc whenever he gets there, evident by his 66.7% field goal percentage inside the arc.

As of now, there’s absolutely no need to panic or be worried. Afterall, Grimes, like many of the Knicks players last season, got off to a bit of a slow start but finished the season incredibly strong, and there’s no reason to believe that he can’t do it again. But Grimes does figure to be a key contributor to this team and will need to be better if this team wants to make another playoff run. Because of that, it is still worth asking why he may be struggling a bit so that we have something to keep an eye on in case this becomes a more worrying trend.

The first answer to that question has to do more with the team and the coach than it does Grimes himself. Despite showcasing the ability to be a secondary or tertiary playmaker and a solid scorer when given the chance, Grimes continues to be a fourth, sometimes even fifth option when on the court. Often sharing the court with ball-dominant, score-first guys in Julius Randle, Jalen Bruson, and RJ Barrett, Grimes is asked to sit in the corner and space the floor. And while he’s more than capable of filling that role, there are times where it’s fair to ask if that is the best use of his talents.

This is where coaching comes into play. Nobody is asking Tom Thibodeau to make Grimes to focal point of the offense or to have multiple possessions where the offense runs through him. But there are absolutely ways in which the Knicks’ head coach can utilize Grimes and his abilities as a shooter and finisher in better ways. Currently, Grimes is averaging the least field goal attempts per 36 minutes in his career, has the lowest usage rate of his career, and is currently just eights on the team in touches per game at just 28.1.

Much like he finally learned to do with Barrett, getting Grimes going downhill off of dribble handoffs could be a nice wrinkle to the offense for Thibodeau, especially now that Barrett himself has turned himself into a much improved outside shooter. Thibodeau could even take a page out of his own playbook and look at the dribble handoffs that Randle and Evan Fournier used to run just two seasons ago when Fournier set the franchise record for most threes in a single season.

But admittedly, it can be difficult for a head coach, one that is tasked with winning as many games as possible, to try to involve younger players more. And that is where the second problem lies. Like it or not, the Knicks surprising everyone a few years ago and then getting Brunson last season accelerated the Knicks’ rebuilding plan and put them in a very sticky situation. There are parts of the fanbase, and the team, I’m sure, that want to win now and do everything it takes to do that, and there are also people who want to take their time and focus more on developing the young players. But New York finds itself not really being able to fully commit to either strategy and that’s when players like Grimes can find it hard to take a big leap. Because instead of getting 34 MPG and averaging 15 field goal attempts per game, and being allowed to experiment and play through mistakes, Grimes is asked to do whatever the team needs and prioritize the team and its success over his own numbers or individual development.

That then may be leading to the final part of the answering why he may be struggling, which is his confidence. Throughout his short NBA career, we’ve seen Grimes be hesitant and indecisive at times and while this is natural for any young player, it still seems to pop up a bit more often than we or he’d probably like. It hasn’t happened too much with his jump shot as that’s been something he’s always been pretty confident about. But there have been multiple times already this season where Grimes has an open lane, but instead of attacking it like we all know he can, he gets caught overthinking, and the lane closes up. This lack of confidence may be something he needs to work on personally, but it could also just be a result of the lack of plays run for him or the amount of shots or touches he gets. Every player playing at any level will tell you that they like being involved for both their confidence and rhythm, and there’s a real chance that Grimes would be noticeably better confidence-wise and results-wise if he were just trusted a bit more.

Again, this isn’t a cause for concern just yet by any means. Grimes hasn’t allowed any poor shooting performances to affect what has been another absolutely amazing defensive season, and he had an incredibly efficient shooting night against the Bucks just the other night. And, it’s not like Grimes is having a horrendous season or that he isn’t doing his job or what the team needs to do at all. There’s a chance that with Immanuel Quickley and Barrett both playing well and Donte DiVincenzo in the fold now, the guard rotations are still being figured out a bit, and Grimes, as the youngest out of those players, is just taking a bit more time to find his rhythm and groove. And it’s very possible that he’s just gotten off to a slow start like he did last season and that it’s just a matter of a few games or a few weeks before Grimes puts together everything he worked on during his offseason training and meeting with JJ Reddick to get back to the player we saw in the second half of last season, or shoot, even better than that. But, some of the indecisiveness, the lack of opportunities, and the declining usage rate are things to keep an eye on going forward, especially since Grimes is a player that both the fans and the team has looked as a key piece going forward.