The return of Jalen Brunson did not hinder Immanuel Quickley from shining with his new, albeit temporary, role as a starter for the still shorthanded New York Knicks.
Quickley produced 15 points on 50 percent shooting overall and from deep while playing stout defense on Chris Paul, who was held to 11 points on 4 of 11 shooting and two assists.
Quickley was Paul’s primary defender. In 21.5 partial possessions, Quickley effectively shut down Paul, who bled for four points on 1 of 4 shooting and did not register a single assist. The Suns only scored eight points the whole time Quickley was on Paul, according to NBA.com’s matchup tracking data.
“We were all tied together. Everybody was in the [defensive] gaps. Really, what we’ve just been preaching all season long is just [filling] in the gaps for each other by communicating.”Immanuel Quickley postgame via MSG Network
Quickley added five rebounds and three assists against only a single turnover in 36 minutes as a starter.
In five starting gigs this season, Quickley is averaging 22.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and 1.0 steals while shooting 41.1 percent from the field and 38 percent from the three-point zone. In stark contrast, Quickley is only putting up 10.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.0 steals while shooting 40.4 percent from the field and 32.1 percent from deep when playing off the bench this season.
His 41.0-minute playing time average as a starter was skewed by their overtime loss to Dallas Mavericks, in which he played for 51 minutes.
It’s no coincidence that Quickley belongs to the two of the Knicks’ most-used lineups with the highest net ratings.
When Brunson was out, the lineup of Miles McBride, Quickley, Quentin Grimes, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson has outscored opposing teams by 17.9 points in 179 possessions, per Cleaning The Glass. The Knicks lineup with the second-highest net rating is, guess what? It’s the Brunson-Quickley backcourt.
In 125 possessions, that backcourt with the rest of the starters, the Knicks have outscored the opponents by 15.2.
“[Brunson and Quickley] are just so dynamic with their ability to score, get into the paint, draw fouls, and create for others. They just make us a very dynamic team.”Julius Randle postgame via MSG Network
But this isn’t an indictment on RJ Barrett, as the Knicks are plus-10.6 points, the team’s third-highest net rating, with him as part of the most-used starting lineup. Instead, it paints a picture of Quickley being more effective with the starters than with the second unit.
Since Tom Thibodeau shortened his rotation to nine, the second unit consists of Quickley, McBride, Barrett, Jericho Sims (filling in for the injured Obi Toppin), and Isaiah Hartenstein has been outscored by 1.9 points in 110 possessions, per Cleaning The Glass.
Quickley, who will be looking to get paid this summer, is quickly proving he’s ready for a regular starting gig. But whether that happens in New York or somewhere else will continue to be much debated until past the February 9 trade deadline.
The Knicks have a difficult decision to make.
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