Quentin Grimes was not looking good. Now, Grimes is not sounding good, either.
The New York Knicks (12-8) faced the Milwaukee Bucks (15-6) in a regular-season game masquerading as an In-Season Tournament Quarterfinal matchup on Tuesday and they came out losers, 146-122, on the road.
Let’s review, for context.
The New York Knicks play this sport we call basketball. There are five men starting games in the NBA, and a whole bunch of warm bodies sitting and waiting for their opportunity on the bench. Grimes, for about a year now, has been part of the former group steadily and unequivocally.
Grimes missed two games not long ago due to a hand injury. He returned and was instantly put back into the starting lineup by head coach Tom Thibodeau.
Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks decided to let Obi Toppin leave last summer trading him to Indiana for a pair of second-round picks while only adding one player via free agency—two-guard Donte DiVincenzo, who is a natural replacement at Grimes’ position in the backcourt.
Grimes started the year playing around 25 minutes, shooting 40% from beyond the arc, and hosting something close to six long-range shots a pop. Quite the volume and the accuracy!
Since coming back from that two-game absence, however, Grimes has attempted just three 3-point shots per game, only once more than three, and fewer than three in the last two games. He’s failed to score at least one 3-point shot in three consecutive games attempting six total shots from range. He’s chronologically scored zero, four, and zero points in the last three outings.
Also, Grimes has seen his playing time diminish daily, going from 24.7 MPG before the injury to 20 minutes after it and 16, 21, and 18 minutes in the last three games. Thibodeau has also benched Grimes for three consecutive fourth quarters in the last three games.
Quentin Grimes was openly frustrated with his role just now. Said it’s tough to find a rhythm when he rarely touches the ball, stands in the corner and gets subbed out after missing one shot.— Stefan Bondy (@SbondyNBA) December 6, 2023
“It feels like if I don’t hit the shot, I’m coming out,” Grimes said after Tuesday’s defeat. Grimes’ lone and missed shot yesterday was followed by Thibs sending him to the bench in the final moments of the third quarter with the two-guard never coming back to the court.
“Every shot I shoot probably weighs like 100 pounds if I don’t make it,” added Grimes, “and our defense, it ain’t cutting it—so I know I ain’t going back in.”
Grimes is hella frustrated, has probably been so for a while, and only just publically voiced his thoughts on Tuesday following a defeat against a team that gave New York no option, that painted their faces offensively, and that kept them from earning a smooth $500K had the Knicks won the little early-season chip.
Josh Hart recently voiced his concerns with his role in the team a few days ago, although he proceeded to have his best game of the season after that (a 17-point banger) before talking to reports out there making too big of a story about his comments.
“I’m not a disgruntled player,” he made clear (h/t Fred Katz).
Josh Hart finished his postgame availability with the following request: “Just so you know, I’m not a disgruntled player. Make sure y’all tweet that shit. Josh Hart said he’s not disgruntled.”— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) November 29, 2023
Grimes has made 4-of-21 shots in the last seven games played, getting back to Nov. 20. The Knicks are 4-3 in that span, and one of the losses (against the Suns) was by a meager three-point difference.
Tom Thibodeau, Grimes struggling or not, is simply not going to make any changes now—and probably never barring a disastrous collapse. “I look at how the unit is functioning,” the coach repeated on Tuesday for the nth time this season. “And so, I would say tonight, we didn’t play well, and to put it on Quentin is not fair.
“I don’t think we really had anyone who played really well. We’re capable of a lot better. You win together, you lose together. Just focus on the improvement and get ready for the next game.”
Grimes is finding it hard to stay put on a corner—Thib’s Toppin Specialty—and he made that clear on Tuesday.
“It’s just hard when you go the whole quarter without touching the ball, the whole second quarter without touching the ball, and then you get one shot and you got to make it,” Grimes said. “So it’s tough going out there and just standing in the corner the whole game. Then you got to make the shot when you shoot the ball one or two times per game.
”It is what it is. We’ll see.”
Grimes acknowledged he benefited from both RJ Barrett and Jalen Brunson missing time at points throughout last season, “So I had the ball in my hands a little bit more — I knew I wasn’t coming out.”
That has changed now with everybody available (for the most part) and another player of his ilk in DDV now in tow and pushing Grimes from behind to improve his offensive numbers if he wants to remain a starting-five staple.
“I knew I was going to be in there and get more shots, play the whole first quarter, the whole third quarter. I knew I had opportunities to get the ball and get my shots up,” Grimes said. “Now it’s just a matter of if the ball come my way, really.”
Thibodeau and Grimes know where his value is to be found—on the defensive side of the game. That said, it’s a bit hard to stomach Grimes getting 20 minutes of run while hoisting and missing one shot in that time.
“You come in with a mindset that it’s a new game every time I step on the court, so you just try to have a positive mindset every time I step out there,” Grimes said.
You don’t even need to look at any advanced statistics to see how Grimes is falling a bit behind the pack. Among the 180 players with 400+ minutes played this season, Grimes has attempted the 12th-fewest field goals (103) while making the absolute-fewest (37) of them.
If you limit the list to one- and two-guards (according to Basketball-Reference.com positional designations), there are 75 players with those many minutes played and Grimes has the fourth-fewest FGA and the fewest FGM (by five).
Throw in a bunch of advanced metrics, and things don’t improve that much. Grimes’ offensive contributions are on par with league-worst Jordan Poole (minus-4.1 OBPM to Grimes’ minus-3.9) and barely above water (plus-0.1) if you focus on Offensive Win Shares.
Grimes’ defense ranks 51st in DWS among 75 qualifiers, and his DBPM ranks 19th—good, definitely not great.
Overall, his PER is dead-last by a good mile (5.9 to second-worst Josh Green’s 8.8) and his VORP ranks 66th out of 75. The DRtg ranks simply a mediocre 37th, and the ORtg craters to a 16th-worst rank.
It might be too early for Thibs to make a lineup change... or it might not.
Last year, the coach flipped the table on Dec. 4 following a trouncing at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks.
This year, the coach might have found the perfect excuse to make such change after enduring another demolition, this time at the hands of the Bucks in what became the first game since 1979 in which our Knickerbockers gave up 146+ points to an opponent.
Will Grimes start Friday’s consolation game in Boston? Should he? What do you think, P&T Crew? Let us and QG know below.