(Photo: Thomas Savoja)
It’s almost unfair to put a spotlight on Immanuel Quickley, especially after he made the NBA Playoffs with the New York Knicks last season after a highly effective rookie season.
However, despite last year’s Knicks success, the franchise still suffers through widespread skepticism due to years of disappointing results and uninspiring talent upgrades. Whether that is fair or not is a discussion for another day, but it’s clear the Knicks will need to attain a level of consistent results before the cloud of doubt fully clears.
This means, rightly or wrongly, that Quickley still flies a bit under the radar.
So let’s give the 22-year-old some well-earned shine.
Expanding his game in Las Vegas
Quickley is currently tearing up the league’s annual Summer League in Las Vegas, clearly looking to add another element to his game. So far, he has. After three games, the guard is averaging 24 points per game, complemented by 7.7 assists, which are elite numbers regardless of league and circumstances.
To fully unearth what’s interesting about Quickley’s production, we need to look at his three-point shooting.
Last year, Quickley functioned as one of New York’s primary floor spacers via his impressive high-volume three-point shooting. Over 52% of his shot attempts were from long range, in part because he was asked to space the floor for All-Star Julius Randle and wingman R.J. Barrett. He hit 38.9% from three-point territory on 4.3 nightly attempts, playing just 19.4 minutes.
In Vegas, Quickley is connecting on just 24.1% of his three-pointers, his usual bread-and-butter strength. That’s just a shooting slump and not an indication of him regressing in that category, but what’s exciting about that number is that it hasn’t stopped him from producing at an elite level. In fact, him not relying on the three-point shot to be successful is nothing short of huge.
Last season, Quickley’s success was often tied to his three-point shooting. Clearly, he’s decided to not put all his eggs in one basket for his second season. The 6’3 lead guard is navigating through pick-and-rolls, getting to the basket, drawing fouls, and creating opportunities for himself and his teammates when he reaches the free throw line area.
Those are clear signs of a player who has more tools in his bag and is motivated to not get pigeonholed as just a shooter. His ball-handling is crisper, his mindset appears more determined, and he’s forcing the issue in a way we rarely saw him do last season.
Furthermore, Quickley has attempted 19 free throws over three games, an impressively high number, and had yet to miss a single one. Getting to the free throw line was a key trait of his back at Kentucky, where he played collegiately, and he’s now bridging his respective skills together at the NBA level, in order to level up at the pro level. Sometimes it’s not only about adding brand new skills but instead incorporating old ones at a higher level to become more well-rounded.
Flexibility is the name of the game
Quickley, while mostly getting playing time at the point guard position, has proven agile enough to slide around at both guard spots, which moving forward will be a huge necessity for the Knicks.
The franchise signed former All-Star point guard Kemba Walker and re-signed another former All-Star point guard in Derrick Rose, which means Quickley will almost certainly play a lot off the ball in a more scoring-oriented role, backing up another free agent acquisition in Evan Fournier.
That’s in part why he’s being unleashed in Summer League, so he can get some runs in as the primary ball-handler. The Knicks aren’t interested in stagnating his development and know all too well how established players can suffer injuries or go through poor production seasons.
Having Quickley around to take over point guard minutes, should they become available, while still giving him enough time on the court alongside Walker and Rose, allows the Knicks to keep his motor running, and they benefit from his scoring prowess.
Quickley, it should be noted, will be considerably younger at the start of the season than Rose (33) and Walker (31) which gives him the benefit of young, and presumably fresher, legs. During the end of a long regular season, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the Knicks decide to sit the older duo and provide Quickley with extended minutes, ramping up his activity level to get him ready for the Playoffs.
The flexibility of Quickley to play multiple positions has become a downright necessity for him to provide continuous value for the Knicks, instead of being buried on the bench, which goes to show the importance of diversifying your game.
Quickley, through his own advancements, has turned himself into a player who is simply too good and too important to not play. Now focus shifts to the coaching staff, who will have their work cut out for them in trying to squeeze in more chances for him.