The New York Knicks have their biggest challenge of the year on Monday evening against the Brooklyn Nets. While Brooklyn has won just six games more than their counterparts in New York, the Nets have won 12 of their last 13 games.
The Knicks are expected to be without both starting point guards Derrick Rose and Elfrid Payton, which leaves them with Immanuel Quickley and Frank Ntilikina. Whether or not Quickley or Frank will earn the start is up to head coach Tom Thibodeau, who was noncommittal on naming a player before Mondayâ€™s contest.
â€œWeâ€™re still not sure yet,â€™â€™ Thibodeau said. â€œIt will be a game-time decision.â€™â€™
Quickley has been a revelation for the Knicks this season offensively, outperforming the 25th overall selection in the 2021 NBA draft. Over 35 games, heâ€™s averaging 12.5 points, 2.4 assists, and 2.3 rebounds over 19.3 minutes. He currently has a .395 field goal percentage and .380% from three-pointer. He also has a .920% success rate from the free-throw line, indicating fantastic efficiency after being fouled.
The Kentucky product understands that he still needs time to develop portions of his game, and while starting would be exciting, heâ€™s not questioning the coaching staff and their decisions.
â€œIf it happens, it happens,â€™â€™ Quickley said. â€œIf it doesnâ€™t, it doesnâ€™t. Iâ€™m trying to bring energy to the game. I know thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m great at, encouraging my teammates. I just know my part.â€™â€™
The Knicks have enjoyed Quickley’s role thus far:
Quickley has been fantastic off the bench with the second team, providing them a spark with his beautiful floaters and ability to hit shots from downtown. At just 21 years old, he has blown everybody away and their expectations, and having a mentor like Derrick Rose behind him will only benefit him in the long term.
â€œHeâ€™s been terrific all year the moment he got here,â€™â€™ Thibodeau said. â€œHeâ€™s a student of the game, stays in the gym, learning every day. Heâ€™s played well. Heâ€™s added a lot to our team, particularly with our need for shooting, and gets into the paint. Heâ€™s a gym rat. Heâ€™s always asking questions and is a a great teammate.â€™â€™
Thibodeau might roll with Frank for one basic reason, heâ€™s a far superior defender, and against a Nets team that is capable of posting 120+ points per game, they will need all the defensive support they can get. The offensive spark Quickley provides off the bench is essential when trying to change the game’s pace, but with ESPNâ€™s Power Index predicting a 79.8% Brooklyn favoring, holding them to a minimum number of points will be essential in this contest.