Could a starting birth for Quickley take the Knicks to an even greater level?
It has been a great first half of the 2020/21 season for the New York Knicks, who sit in fifth place in the East with a record of 19-18. This success has been put down to the coaching of Tom Thibodeau & all-star form of Julius Randle but their second unit has been dominated by the man they selected no.25 in the 2020 draft, Immanuel Quickley.
The Knicks scouts spotted something special in Quickley, trading up during the draft to get him late in the first round and their faith has been repaid so far in his rookie season. The 21 year old is averaging 12 points off the bench while shooting 38% from three and above 94% from the free throw line. The PG is doing this without having started a single game and averaging just under 19 minutes a night, with a game which better compliments the Knicks stars compared to current starting point guard, Elfrid Payton, a switch to a starting role may just unleash the Knicks and Quickley alike.
Quickley is far from the finished package, his inability to guard opposition wings and his reliance on the mid range floater being two of the major flaws in his game but with Randle playing the point-forward position at a near elite level a sharpshooter like Quickley is exactly what the Knicks need. The biggest question mark placed on Quickley's game coming into the draft was whether or not he could run the point but now you look at him and think "with his knockdown shooting, does he really need to be able to run the point".
Quickley's ability to launch 3's lifts the Knicks offense and allows him to flip a game on its head in just a few possessions. Opposing defenses have to be aware of Quickley at all times due to the speed at which he gets his shots off and the efficient level he shoots from deep and fouling is no help with the for Kentucky man 'money' from the charity stripe. Refs don't usually give rookies many calls but Quickley is already adept at drawing fouls and forcing referees to blow their whistle, ranking second in foul rate among rookies who have played at least 25 games. This uncommon trait in rookies has helped save Quickley on nights when his shot isn't falling.
Quickley is the fifth guard in the rotation and compliments the game of fellow bench guard Derrick Rose very well. Coach Thibs has relied heavily on his favored starting lineup (Payton, Barrett, Bullock, Randle & Robinson) and despite having a net rating of plus 0.9 that number shoots up plus 26 when you replace Payton with Quickley. Payton is a traditional PG who is at his best when he can control the tempo of the game and run the offense but that's what both Barrett & Randle want to do aswell. There is no need for another playmaker but there is every need for a guard like Quickley, who can spread the floor and be a release valve in the half court offense.
Randle and Quickley are a perfect blend of skills and the stats show it:
Guards like Quickley need the freedom to let lose on the court and playmaking bigs like Randle need volume three pointers like Immanuel Quickley. Yes, Elfrid Payton is a superior defender and that is why coach Thibs will probably continue to use him more but Quickley will be an elite shooter for a long time to come and should be implemented into the Knicks starting lineup sooner rather than later.
The Knicks are having their best season in years, many fans will say 'why tinker with the starting team, it isn't broken, why fix it?' To them I would say, it can be even better. The Knicks go from a net rating of plus-4.5 in 548 minutes with Quickley this season to minus-1.6 in 1,036 minutes without him. The stats don't lie and New York deserves to see Immanuel Quickley helping to elevate the games of Randle & RJ from the start.