Immanuel Quickley is an unexpected sensation for the New York Knicks and he might be the final answer to the point guard question.
Well, Quickley is proving his doubters wrong and through 21 games, he’s asserting himself in some Rookie of the Year talk. The point guard is playing with reckless abandon and yet, he never seems like he’s out of control. He’s electric and steady at the same time.
The rookie is already grabbing the attention of some of the NBA’s best. Quickley grew up modeling his game after Lou Williams. On Sunday, he had the chance to go head to head with Williams and he made sure to savor the moment.
— Danny Small (@dwsmall8) January 31, 2021
Six-time All-Star Paul George also took notice of Quickley as well. After the game, George spoke glowingly of the rookie to reporters on a Zoom call. He specifically referenced Quickley’s patented floater that is taking the league by storm.
“We were just talking in the back that his float game is off the charts for a young guy,” Paul George said. “And I think what I love the most, which is a hard quality to find, is I thought he was fearless. He took some big shots. He stepped up to take big shots. And offensively, he was just aggressive.”
It’s rare to see a superstar veteran talk up a rookie quite like this. Quickley was taken back when he heard about George’s comments, but the kid is all business.
“For him to say that about me is a humbling experience and I appreciate it,” Quickley said. “But I just want to continue to try to keep getting better to try to help this team get more wins.”
For what it’s worth, Quickley continues to get better. In his last 10 games, he is averaging 17.1 points on 45/41/91 shooting splits in just 21.2 minutes per game. Although the rookie has been deadly from beyond the arc, it’s his ability to get in the paint and the touch on his floater that is turning heads.
He still has some work to do on his finishing at the rim, but Quickley’s floater is already money in the bank. Having a go-to shot in his arsenal at such an early stage in his NBA career is rare.
And of course, Quickley’s current hot streak coincides with Elfrid Payton‘s struggles. Payton is averaging 8.1 points per game on abysmal shooting numbers (37/18/83) over his last 10 games. This begs the question: When will Quickley supplant Payton in the starting lineup?
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has given no indication that he’s ready to make that move. Payton is a solid defender who can put on pressure at the point of attack. Despite the fact that the Knicks allowed 126 points to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, they are still a defense-first squad.
It’s also worth noting that Thibs might be holding back Quickley as a way of protecting him. He can continue to find his rhythm against second units before playing in crunch time down the stretch. Eventually, Quickley is going to need to take over as the starter, but it might not be for a while.
When the change is finally made, it’s going to be fun to watch the trio of Quickley, RJ Barrett, and Julius Randle. Among Knicks three-man lineups with at least 100 minutes played together, the Quickley-Barrett-Randle trio has the highest net rating by far. That group has a net rating of 19.4, more than double the next best unit (Rivers-Randle-Barrett, 8.0).
Quickley’s gravity as a shooter helps open up driving lanes for Barrett and Randle. Plus, all three are willing passers who can handle the ball. Add in ever-present lob-threat Mitchell Robinson with a shooter like Reggie Bullock, Austin Rivers, or Alec Burks and that is a dynamic starting lineup.
But no matter when Quickley finally gets the call, he appears to be the long-awaited answer at point guard for the Knicks. For years, they have missed out on the point guard of the future in the draft and have been forced to settle for a patchwork of aging veterans and reclamation projects.
For the first time in a long time, it looks like the Knicks have found the guy. Despite the loss to the Clippers on Sunday, Quickley’s continued string of success is more than enough reason for Knicks fans to be happy.
All stats via NBA.com