Immanuel Quickley is not just offering New York floor spacing; he’s taking a shot that very few players have in their repertoire—30-foot three-pointers.
In 2020, the New York Knicks used the first-round pick they acquired from the Marcus Morris trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, after some draft-day machinations, to select Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley with the 25th overall pick. New York had foregone drafting a guard—namely Tyrese Haliburton—with their own pick at eight, instead selecting Obi Toppin. However, New York’s new front office, specifically advisor World Wide Wes, was certain they found their guy in Quickley.
After shooting 42.8% from deep in his sophomore season at Kentucky, the Knicks always expected Quickley to help provide some much-needed shooting. They ranked dead last in the NBA in three-pointers made for the 2019–20 season and accumulated the second-fewest attempts.
Yet, as the 21-year-old repeatedly pulls up from well beyond the arc, the full extent and effect of Quickley’s range astound Knicks fans, many of whom will hear the Kill Bill siren anytime they read the phrase: “The East is big, man.”
QUICK FROM THE LOGO pic.twitter.com/GR1Zt5DHkf
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) May 3, 2021
The offense still needs tweaking. New York continues to rank near the bottom of the league in three-point attempts at 29.7 per game. However, the Knicks have improved on their threes, knocking down 39.1% of their shots from the outside, the third-best mark in the league. Quickley assists with that improvement, shooting 39.7% from deep on 4.8 attempts per game. Pair him with staggering improvements Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett, and the Knicks have their best collection of shooters since the days of Carmelo Anthony.
And it’s not just the fact that Quickley is shooting nearly 40% from deep that makes him so valuable; it’s where those threes are coming from.
Over the course of the previous two seasons, seven Knicks combined to hit 15 three-pointers from 30-or-more feet out. Wesley Matthews made four, Luke Kornet knocked down three, Tim Hardaway Jr., Damyean Dotson, and Emmanuel Mudiay each made two, while Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina both hit one each. In 61 games this season, Quickley has made 10 30-plus-footers. Per Basketball-Reference, he’s taken 26 shots from deep three-point range, meaning he’s shooting 38.4% from that distance.
The Knicks are leaning all the way into this development, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reported that the coaching staff has been encouraging Quickley to take these deep threes, “We have a four-point line at our practice facility, and he shoots just as effectively from that area,” said head coach Tom Thibodeau. “When he has an opening in transition sometimes those are the best looks that he’ll get.”
Immanuel Quickley has expanded his range to Steph and Dame shots. Thibodeau is all for it:
"We have a 4-point line at our practice facility, and he shoots just as effectively from that area. When he has an opening in transition sometimes those are the best looks that he’ll get"
— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) May 1, 2021
That shot is huge for both Quickley and New York’s offense.
He brings a completely new aspect to the Knicks’ offense, especially when contrasted with New York’s other point guards. Starter Elfrid Payton is shooting 29.5% from the three-point range on just 1.7 attempts per game. Sixth man Derrick Rose has been hot from deep lately and is making 41.0% of his threes for the season but still averages only 2.6 attempts per game. Additionally, the two have combined for just one attempt of 30-or-more feet. Quickley brings the best of both worlds.
Quickley’s presence on the court stretches defenses more than any other player on the Knicks because they have to respect his willingness to take and his ability to make these long-range shots. This opens up the floor for the rest of the team, and Quickley’s aware of how this part of his game helps his teammates and has worked on it.
As TKW’s own Sam DiGiovanni reported, following a May 2nd gameday shootaround, Quickley told reporters that he had worked on his range since his time at Kentucky. “I try to take my shooting, any time I’m in the gym, very seriously. Never skip days or reps, tryna get better, especially with my shooting,” he said. “I think it opens up driving lanes ‘cause people have to close out to me really far, and that just creates opportunities for myself and then creates opportunities for teammates.”
Following gameday shootaround:
Quickley said he’s worked on deep 3s since his Kentucky days. “I try to take my shooting, any time I’m in the gym, very seriously. Never skip days or reps, tryna get better, especially with my shooting.” pic.twitter.com/v0WTF5HjwX
— Sam (@BySamDiGiovanni) May 2, 2021
Coming out of Kentucky, one of the few knocks against Quickley was that he lacked the playmaking abilities to be a lead ball-handler. His 3.8 assists per 36 minutes don’t do much to dispel that notion, but his gravity as a shooter creates lanes for the likes of Randle, Barrett, and Rose to create. Looking at these lineups where Quickley serves as a secondary or tertiary ball-handler and his influence on their shot selection is obvious. Per Cleaning the Glass, of their 10 most-played lineups, only the three that feature Quickley shoot more above-the-break threes than league average.
When Quickley is on the court, 36.2% of the Knicks shot attempts are threes, and of those, 9.5% come from the corners; the other 26.7% are taken above the break, per Cleaning the Glass. Additionally, when he’s off the court, 9.8% of their shots come from the corners, but their non-corner-three rate drops to 19.4%. That 7.3% difference places him in the 99th percentile of players, meaning almost no one influences their team into taking more above-the-break threes than Quickley—and personally, he is shooting 38.2% on non-corner threes, which make up 45% of his total field-goal attempts.
While the aforementioned jump in team attempts can partially be attributed to the rest of the roster’s preference for shorter, corner threes—per NBA Stats, the Knicks shoot the seventh-most in the league—as a team, the Knicks do shoot well above average on above-the-break threes with Quickley on the floor. Their 38% non-corner three-point shooting percentage is the sixth-best in the league, per NBA Stats.
Every foot that a defender has to cover on a close-out gives the shooter a better look. Whether they’re rotating to Quickley or away from him towards a teammate, the extra spacing that shooters can only find above-the-break is giving the Knicks the time to make the most of every attempt they make—a necessity when you attempt 20.9 non-corner threes per game, the fewest in the league.
As a rookie, Immanuel Quickley has come in and shocked many as a productive late first-round draft pick. However, as he continues to improve, one area of success for the former Wildcat has been his deep three-point shooting. Between that and his ability to serve as a secondary playmaker, the Knicks seem to have found another weapon in their evolving offense under Tom Thibodeau.
In 2009, the Knicks missed out on Stephen Curry by one pick in the draft, then in 2013 they hosted his Warriors the night he introduced himself to the wider NBA with 54 points on 11 threes at the Garden. In 2020, they drafted one of his disciples in Immanuel Quickley. The Knicks had been behind the curve on the three-point revolution that was shepherded in by Curry and subsequently overwhelmed the league over the course of the last decade, but in Quickley, New York finally has a shooter for this era.
Editor’s note: Several stats in this article were updated after publishing to reflect the most accurately found data. The only significant change, however, was the figure and phrasing of Quickley’s frequency of non-corner shots, earlier written as 90% of his three-point shots coming above the break, while not inaccurate, was changed to 45% of the rookie’s overall field goals attempted.