Yes, it’s only preseason, but given last night’s glimpse, and the Knicks roster’s construction, it’s fair to wonder.
When drafting No. 8, many immediately wondered why the Knicks didn’t opt for need — specifically with Tyrese Haliburton — as they selected 22-year-old forward Obi Toppin with Julius Randle already on the roster. (There’s already a solution for that, though.) And after some moving around, the Knicks elected to bring in sharpshooting 21-year-old Immanuel Quickley, who insists he could play point guard but was held from showcasing that at Kentucky.
There are reasons for that. Take it from longtime Kentucky men’s basketball head coach John Calipari himself.
“What happens is, you go to a place like Kentucky, or back in the day I could mention different schools where there are 5-or-6 of you that were all legitimate, you shared,” he said on The Jump in September. “One day, you went for 30, the next day, the next guy went for 30, and you’re all happy. You’re trying to win national titles.”
We’ve experienced this in many recent historical instances with NBA Kentucky products. Once upon a time, Bam Adebayo was ostensibly your standard, post-up, defensive-minded big man in coach Calipari’s system. He’s even admitted to restricting the versatility we now see at the NBA level, which Adebayo demonstrated in high school, in order for Kentucky to play the way they do. We knew his teammate Tyler Herro was pretty good at Kentucky, but we didn’t expect he’d be a core piece and supporting reason for an NBA Finals run as a rookie. Devin Booker only averaged 10 points per game, and is a dark-horse MVP candidate this season. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander only flashed his All-Star abilities at Kentucky, and is already the best player on an NBA team.
In college, Quickley drained nearly 43 percent from 3, and finished with more than 16 points and 4 rebounds per game, while dishing out near 2 assists nightly. What works against him is that Adebayo, Herro, SGA, and Booker were all late lottery selections drafted 11-14, as well as one-and-dones, whereas Quickley left after his sophomore season. However, the 6-foot-3 guard already showed enough at the point guard spot in one preseason game than anyone on the roster. That mainly includes Elfrid Payton and Austin Rivers, respectfully, both of whom Quickley is much younger than.
A highlight courtesy of The Knicks Wall captured Quickley’s 7-assist performance, which he did over 25 minutes of play after coming off the bench. And although plus-minus is an imperfect metric, Quickley — a team-best +19 — helped drive a 100-93 comeback victory, where the Knicks outscored the Cleveland Cavaliers 34-13 in the fourth.
Not only could Quickley tap into those point-guard skills he didn’t showcase at Kentucky, but he put them on full display last night, and he said he intends to continue. By his account, it’s part of who he’s been.
“I’ve been a point guard all my life,” he said. “I feel I’m versatile playing off the ball, on the balI. I feel like, coming in, I was trying to tell all the NBA teams that I’m somebody who just happened to play off the ball at Kentucky that one year, my sophomore year. I can really do both, and I’m glad the Knicks picked me. I’m glad to be here; the fans are great. So I just feel like I can really do both.”
Given their current roster, it would not only be in Tom Thibodeau’s best interest to award Quickley an increase of minutes, but to start him entirely if he continues to show this. It’s a no-lose situation for New York by doing so. (Other than games, which they’ll do anyway, but in this case, it’ll be for the sake of development.)