Breaking down the game of Knicks rookie guard Immanuel Quickley

Dec 13, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley (5) passes the ball during the second quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Breaking down the game of Knicks rookie guard Immanuel Quickley


Breaking down the game of Knicks rookie guard Immanuel Quickley

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Immanuel Quickley has already surpassed many early expectations set for him when the New York Knicks selected him in the 2021 NBA draft.

Quickley, 21, is averaging 12.2 points while shooting 37.1 percent from three-point range and 93.8 percent from the free-throw line. He had one of the best games of his professional career on Feb. 25, recording 18 points on six attempts and in just nine minutes of action during the first half against the Sacramento Kings.

The rookie finished the game with 25 points, which is the fourth time he has scored 25+ points since Jan. 24, when he dropped a career-high 31 points on the Portland Trail Blazers.

Performances like that make it hard not to be excited about the 21-year-old guard, who won SEC Player of the Year at Kentucky last season. While some were surprised that he was selected in the first round, he has proven his doubters wrong thus far.

Quickley burst onto the scene with some remarkable early productivity. As he continues to make an impact on the league, opponents are starting to game plan more for the promising young player.

They’re learning that Quickley is a 6-foot-3 combo guard who has played the most of his minutes running the point. He has been featured as a relatively ball-dominant player who has carried a significant load on each offensive possession for the Knicks when he is on the floor. In fact, his usage rate (27.8 percent) is the highest among all qualified rookies.

Even though Quickley never recorded more than five assists in a game during either of his two years in the NCAA, he already recorded eight dimes on Jan. 17 against the Boston Celtics.

While his long-term role may project best as a secondary ball-handler, he has been effective as a ball-handler thus far. His assist percentage (21.5 percent) and turnover percentage (7.8 percent) are both fifth-best among all qualified rookies in both regards.

Quickley has been an above-average creator for his teammates when he has been given the opportunity and that he is also valuing the rock well enough to rarely cough it up.

But his best skill set has been his ability to score the ball, which he is already able to do in a variety of ways.

Quickley is currently scoring 23.3 points per 36 minutes for the Knicks. That the best mark among all qualified rookies, per RealGM, and it is 4.5 points per 36 better than what presumptive 2021 NBA Rookie of the Year favorite LaMelo Ball has recorded.

Perhaps the most impressive element of his game is that he already has a signature shot on offense. Even as a rookie, Quickley’s floating jumper has already become iconic, which basketball fans have seen often celebrated on Twitter.

During his sophomore campaign at Kentucky, Quickley scored 63 points on his running floater. That was the highest mark among all players in a high-major conference, according to Synergy.

Now a professional, per Synergy, only four players in the NBA have taken more floaters than Quickley has so far in 2020-21. That is notable because these players (e.g. Trae Young and Collin Sexton) play significantly more minutes than Quickley has played.

These looks have come from as close as three feet from the basket and as far as 16 feet away from the rim. That means that defenders generally have a pretty good idea of what the rookie is going to do before he does it.

Approximately one-third of his total attempts have come on the short midrange, outside of four feet but inside of fourteen feet. That ranks in the 95th percentile among all combo guards, per Cleaning the Glass.

Meanwhile, only 17.5 percent of his connections from short midrange have come off an assist. Many of these opportunities have come on pick-and-roll actions where he rejects the screen and dribbles off the pick for a runner or a jumper off the dribble.

Quickley has become adept at getting the ball beyond the arc and dribbling it towards the basket, averaging 13.8 drives per 36. That is comparable to other scoring guards around the league including Devin BookerZach LaVine and Fred VanVleet.

This has helped him draw even more contact from his defenders. He has drawn 6.4 fouls per 40 in the NBA, much higher than his rate (5.0) while at Kentucky.

That is especially good news considering that Quickley’s free-throw percentage (92.3 percent) was the fourth-best among all players in college basketball last season. This year, his free-throw percentage (93.8 percent) is tied with Stephen Curry (!) for the fourth-best in the NBA.

Based on what we have seen from him at the charity stripe, he clearly has a good shooting touch. Even if his three-pointer wasn’t sinking, the free-throw numbers would be encouraging.

Fortunately, however, his jumper has also been promising in the sample size that we have seen.

When shooting from three, he has been far more likely to shoot from above the arc than he has been from the corners. That suggests that he is creating his own opportunities more often than he is just spotting up on the perimeter like most other rookies.

Quickley has been just as effective off the catch as he has been off the dribble thus far. He has been able to produce off the bounce, which is a huge sign of future success.

Look at the confidence that Quickley displayed while completely controlling this possession, finishing with a beautiful connection from deep against the Kings:

Last season, per Hoop-Math, 16.9 percent of his total three-pointers were unassisted. This season, according to PBP Stats, that has now skyrocketed to the impressive rate of 42.8 percent.

So far, only 35 percent of his field-goals have come from an assist. That ranks in the 94th percentile among players at his position, via Cleaning the Glass.

Overall, the advanced statistics tend to paint Quickley as a fairly effective player as well. The catch-all metrics show that New York has gotten a ton of value from Quickley during his time with the Knicks.

His player efficiency rating (PER) ranks him No. 1 overall among first-year players while FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR scores him as the second-best rookie. Bball-Index’s LEBRON has Quickley with the highest mark of all players who are 21 years or younger except for just Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson.

It is arguably too early to make any bold, declarative predictions about how Quickley will continue to develop. But the front office and the coaching staff in New York are surely thrilled about what they have seen from this rookie.

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