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Knicks Media Roundup: Popper and Katz write about Immanuel Quickley’s playing time

Tom Thibodeau faces challenges managing New York’s talented roster, Popper proposes a trade for relief, and Katz reveals their death squad.

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Milwaukee Bucks v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Everybody’s talking about Immanuel Quickley’s playing time.

This season, Quickley is logging a respectable 15.1 points, and 2.6 rebounds in 23.9 minutes per game. Per 100 possessions, the 24-year-old averages 31.2 points. That’s third on the team behind Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle, and just ahead of RJ Barrett. He is the third-best three-point shooter of the top nine players (behind Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo) and has a 2.5:1 turnover ratio. Furthermore, he’s been taking smarter shots and fewer heat checks this season, reaching the top 97 percentile for shot quality. And he’s attentive and attacking on defense.

Shouldn’t a player like this, on a clear upward trajectory, see an increase in playing time?

Indeed. But instead of more, he gets less. Last season Quickley averaged 14.9 points in 28.9 minutes per game. His loss of five minutes per outing is due to a crowded pool of guards and wings that includes: Jalen Brunson (35.6 MPG), Donte DiVincenzo (20.7), Quentin Grimes (20.8), Josh Hart (28), and RJ Barrett (29.2).

In their last game, against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the hot-handed Quickley was subbed out during the final stretch because Thibodeau preferred the size of RJ Barrett. The plan backfired, the Knicks lost, and we’ve been hearing about it ever since.

Yesterday, Steve Popper proposed that the New York Knicks’ “playing-time logjam could be solved by trading Immanuel Quickley”.

In the article, Popper quotes Coach Tom Thibodeau:

“That’s the challenge,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We have good players. It’s easy to sit there and say, ‘Well, this guy should’ve played more.’ And you can certainly make a case for people because when they’re playing well, that’s a natural question. But OK, well, who are you taking out? Because you can’t just keep adding without taking out. And I know it’s not easy, but it’s also what’s best for the team. So you’re asking everyone to sacrifice and put the team first. And for the most part, I think our guys have handled that well.”

That’s true. Quickley has been a consummate professional during his four seasons in New York. His representatives couldn’t reach a contract agreement with the Knicks front office during the past summer, however. The player’s people reportedly looking for a contract in the $20 million per year range. As a result, he will be a restricted free agent next summer, which means that teams can make offers and the Knicks will have the option to match the offer.

I’ll bet you it tops $20 mil per year.

Immanuel has stated in the past that he wants to be an NBA starter. In one way, his excellent play has hindered his desires. Last year’s runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year is the best of the back-ups and serves as the point guard there. Thibs is in no hurry to lose the depth, organization, and defensive tenacity that he brings to the second unit.

In his recent article for The Athletic, Fred Katz wrote about the Quickley situation, too. According to Katzz, Quickley, Brunson, Hart, and Randle form a highly successful lineup for the New York Knicks. To wit:

The Knicks outscore opponents by 26.5 points per 100 possessions this season when Brunson, Quickley, Hart, and Randle share the floor, according to Cleaning the Glass. [...]

They are scoring 134.5 points per 100 possessions. That’s also the best in the league. Think about it like this: A 134.5 offensive rating is the equivalent of a team taking a 3-pointer on every possession and hitting 45 percent of them. Or to frame it another way, Zion Williamson, a boulder disguised as a human, is shooting a hair above 67 percent from the rim this season, which means this group is scoring well as if every possession ended in a Williamson layup.

This death sqaud benefits from versatility, both defensively and offensively, as each player can create shots, distribute the ball, and contribute on defense. And yet. . . .

Acquiring Donte DiVincenzo over the summer gave New York more shooting ability but didn’t do Quickley any favors. After a poor first quarter of the season, it became clear that Grimes needed to be removed from the starting lineup. Rather than Quickley, DiVo was Thibodeau’s choice.

In his article, Popper sees the wisdom in leveraging IQ’s value and low-cost expiring contract in a trade before the February deadline. The Knicks would surely get a high-quality asset(s) back, and Quickley might finally find a place in which to flourish.

On the contrary, why not see how the team does with a starting lineup of Brunson, Quickley, Hart, Randle, and Hartenstein? Donte can run the second-unit, and maybe Deuce can come out of the doghouse for 10 minutes per game to handle the point. At least until the trade deadline draws closer, I’d love to see what kind of damage that starting lineup can do. Maybe if enough of us make this wish upon a star. . . .

Share your thoughts below. And go Knicks.