If there is a difference between what we saw from Immanuel Quickley for the Knicks from a year ago to this NBA season, it starts with his build. Quickley is never going to be Charles Atlas, but he is not as thin as he was last season, having spent the summer working to add muscle to his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame. And that, the 22-year-old Quickley said on Monday, has been a key in earning the trust of coach Tom Thibodeau.
“Sometimes last year, I could not stay on the floor,” Quickley said, “because I could not guard—especially playing with Derrick (Rose), sometimes I gotta guard 2s–being a little bit stronger helps me guard a lot bigger players. Just to stay on the floor in general you gotta be able to guard for coach Thibs. That was one of the things that I tried to really hone in on. As you get older, you get stronger anyway, but that was one of the things I tried to really hone in on.”
Quickley was outstanding in the Knicks’ impressive, grinding win over the Pacers on the offensive side, knocking down all four 3-pointers he tried including two in a big fourth-quarter stretch, but his defense was top-notch as well. He was big part of holding Indiana’s guards—Malcolm Brogdon, Caris Levert, T.J. McConnell and Jeremy Lamb –to just 14-for-34 shooting (34.9%).
As a whole, the Pacers shot 37.2%. And again, it was the bench unit, including Quickley, who led the way on both ends.
Thibs on Quickley: ‘Very Underrated Defender’
Certainly, Quickley got the attention of his coach.
“He’s a very underrated defender. He’s a fierce competitor, which I think really helps him,” Thibodeau said. “Sometimes we have to reel him in a little bit with his gambles, but he’s underrated.”
The numbers bear that out. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Quickley is among the most effective defenders on the Knicks, with opponents scoring only 99.8 points per 100 possessions when he is on the floor and 115.3 when he is off the floor. That difference—15.5 points per 100 possessions—ranks No. 2 among Knicks regulars, behind Rose (23.5).
The two Knicks starters at guard have had terrible defensive on/off numbers. When Kemba Walker is on the floor, teams score an average of 20.8 points per 100 possessions more than when he is off. When R.J. Barrett is playing, opponents score an average of 12.4 points more than when he is off.
Quickley Knew He Would Make Shots ‘Eventually’
As for Quickley’s offense, he has been on a roll lately. In his last six games, he is averaging 12.6 points on 48.0% shooting, making 53.6% of his 3-pointers. That is a sharp contrast from the beginning of the season, when Quickley averaged 5.3 points on 27.7% shooting and 21.4% 3-point shooting.
But don’t tell Quickley he was in a slump coming out of the gates.
“I don’t really look at it as a slow start, I just look at it as, the ball wasn’t going in, and it’s eventually going to go in,” he said. “Numbers is always going to fall into place where they are supposed to. If you just stick with it, you keep working, doing all the things you supposed to and keeping my faith first, everything is going to fall into place. I don’t got to worry—if it doesn’t go in this game, it’s going in the next game. If it doesn’t go in that game, it will go in the next game.”