Knicks’ Quickley is making an early positive impact

JERALD L. HOOVER | 2/4/2021, midnight
Sometimes it’s not when a player is drafted, but by which team that determines their career trajectory.
Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley

Sometimes it’s not when a player is drafted, but by which team that determines their career trajectory. The NBA Draft—as is the case with every other major sports league—is hit or miss. A gamble when teams are picking a teenager or 20-year-old with only one or two years of college experience. It will always have high risk factors.

Knicks guard Immanual Quickley, who was projected by some scouts and draft analysis to be a second-round pick, was taken by the Oklahoma City Thunder with the 25th overall pick in the first round and then traded to the Knicks in a prearranged deal. The early returns look as if the Knicks struck gold in their quest to find a point guard who can be a highly productive starter for the foreseeable future.

“We’re just encouraging him and he’s playing really hard. That’s all we can ask for,” said second-year guard R.J. Barrett, after a 102-81 Knicks victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden last week, a game in which the 21-year-old Quickley came off of the bench to score 25 points. “He’s playing hard and he’s making plays. He’s making winning plays. He’s scoring the basketball. He’s really bringing it for us and we appreciate him.”

Quickley, who was the SEC Player of the Year at Kentucky last year, isn’t just impressing his teammates and the Knicks’ coaching staff, led by Tom Thibodeau, he is opening eyes around the NBA. “He showed today he’s a special talent,” said Los Angeles Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue after his team defeated the Knicks 129-115 this past Sunday at MSG.

“He’s fearless with a crazy ability to score on floaters in the paint,” noted Clippers All-Star forward Paul George. Quickley has recently had the opportunity to play against two of his favorite NBA players in the Clippers’ Lou Williams and the Portland Trailblazers’ Damien Lillard. He scored a career-high 31 points in the Knicks’ 116-113 loss to Lillard and the Blazers Jan. 24. It was part of his ongoing basketball education as Lillard netted 39.