There is an ongoing debate whether Immanuel Quickley is better off as a scorer off the bench or a point guard. The sophomore New York Knicks guard continued to trend towards becoming both after notching his first career triple-double.
Quickley scored 20 points with 10 assists and 10 rebounds, both career-highs, as the Knicks routed the Magic, 118-88, Sunday at Amway Center in downtown Orlando in front of a loud Knicks crowd.
“I’m a basketball player,’’ Quickley said via NY Post. “I’ve been trying to tell everybody that. I can handle the ball, pass the ball, shoot the ball, help my teammates get shots, and help myself get shots. So that’s what I view myself as, a basketball player.’’
Quickley struggled early in the season as he recalibrated his game from a scorer to more of a playmaker starting in the NBA Summer League. But he’s found his rhythm lately.
Since the All-Star break, Quickley has averaged 15.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists in 20 games. He’s had at least four assists in 12 of those games, which shows his growth as a playmaker.
It’s quite a jump from his pre-All-Star break numbers: 9.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. He’s only had at least four assists in 18 of his first 55 games, while his shooting numbers dipped to 36.8 percent overall and 32.8 percent from the three-point zone. Since then, he’s been shooting 44 percent from the field and 39.2 percent from deep on 5.1 attempts, almost half of his shot diet (10.4 field goal attempts).
“I thought [Quickley] gave us a great lift,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It was more how he got the ball moving for us. I think we had 29 assists, and he made a lot of good plays. His shot sets things up. But I thought he made a conscious effort to get the ball moving side to side. And anytime you get the guard rebounding like that, that allows you to get out into the open floor and run. I want him to continue to do that.’’
So it wasn’t surprising that half of his 10 assists against the Magic went to Obi Toppin (3) and RJ Barrett (2), the two other Knicks’ young players who thrive in transition. Quickley pointed out his close relationship with Toppin off the court, which has translated well on the court.
“He’s just got a different type of passion. He’s very passionate about his game, and he wants everybody succeeds. He wants to pass the ball and allow other people to get off. That’s one of the biggest things. He pushes everybody every single day,” Toppin said of his draft classmate.
For Quickley, the transition from playing off the ball to becoming a lead playmaker hinges on developing his leadership skills.
“[I’ve learned] The pace of play, slowing down a little bit and then obviously always trying to get better in playmaking, create for my teammates and leadership. I probably say it’s another big thing, making sure I’m really vocal when I’m on the floor talking to guys, keeping guys positive, and [play with] high energy,” Quickley said after their loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers last Saturday where he flirted with a triple-double (17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists).
The next day, Quickley became the second-youngest Knick to record a triple-double, behind Kenny Sears, who did it in 1956. He also joined Mark Jackson and Ray Williams as the third Knicks player in history to record a triple-double off the bench.
Quickley may not be starting, but he’s playing starter minutes over the last two games. He’s averaging 32 minutes over Knicks’ official starting point guard Alec Burks’ 30.5.
Quickley’s playmaking skills are no longer debatable. The debate quickly turns to whether he should start as the Knicks’ point guard. He’s trending up in that direction.
Perhaps next season.
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