What happens at the NBA Summer League in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas. Performances by drafted rookies, second-year players and those aspiring to make a roster will carry over into training camp and the start of the season.
The Knicks have brought 2020 first round picks Obi Toppin (No. 8), Immanuel Quickley (No. 25) and their top rookies in last month’s draft, shooting guard Quentin Grimes (No. 25), Lithuanian guard Rokas Jokubaitis (No. 34), point guard Miles Bridges (No. 36) and forward Jericho Sims (No. 58) all out West to get a deeper look at their young talent pool.
Heading into last night’s game versus the Los Angeles Lakers, the Knicks were 1-1, having lost their opener to the Toronto Raptors 89-79 and defeating the Indiana Pacers 94-86 on Monday. Quickley continues to affirm he’ll be a major scoring threat as a combo guard, registering 32 points with eight assists against Indiana. Toppin, who has been sterling in his first two games, added 22 in the win after scoring a team high 24 facing Toronto.
“I was very curious. So far, it’s been a great experience,” said Toppin in a post-game interview. “It would have been better if we got the [win]. We just didn’t lose but we learned today. We’ll learn today. We’ll learn from this and get better.”
Improving individually, and embracing the standards and system established by Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau is a priority for the youngsters. Toppin and Quickley were among many of last year’s draftees that weren’t afforded an opportunity to benefit from practicing and playing with the Knicks in Vegas as the summer league was canceled due to COVID-19. With a shortened training camp, they missed valuable time adjusting to the NBA game.
Toppin had an uneven rookie campaign, averaging just four points and two rebounds in 62 games. But showed glimpses of the athleticism, rim protection and offensive potential that earned him the National College Player of the Year award in 2020 coming out of Dayton University. He had perhaps his best stretch of the season against the Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs.
Conversely, Quickley was selected to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team after posting 11.4 points and 2.1 assists in 64 games. In Vegas, he is working on honing his ability as a lead guard, facilitating, and organizing the offense. With Julius Randle (24.1) and RJ Barrett (17.6) the Knicks’ top two scorers last season, Quickley has the capacity to move into the mix and help increase the team’s output after they finished 26th (107) out of 30 teams in points per game.
The Knicks will play the Detroit Pistons and 2021 No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham tomorrow and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.