Immanuel Quickley’s incredible play off the bench has made him one of the Knicks’ most important players and a great candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Sunday night in Boston was Immanuel Quickley’s introduction to the casual fan.
Quickley’s 38-point masterclass against the conference-leading Celtics accomplished many things. For starters, it extended the Knicks’ win streak to nine games. It proved the team could win a big game without their best player. And most importantly, it showed the league that Immanuel Quickley is a name to keep tabs on heading into award season.
Quickley, normally the captain of the bench mob, had to fill in for an injured Jalen Brunson in the starting lineup, who missed the game with a sore left foot. From the opening tip, Quickley had complete control of the game. He drilled a three right off the opening tip and never looked back. He continued to find any shot he pleased, fed his teammates and also locked up on defense.
Quickley ended his night with a career-high 38 points, as well as seven assists, eight rebounds, four steals and two blocks. The most mind-boggling number from that loaded line was the 55, the minutes Quickley logged, an unfathomable amount of court time in the year 2023. Quickley played the entire second half and both overtime periods, and the Knicks needed every single minute. It was Quickley’s seven points in the second overtime that put the Celtics away for good.
For Quickley the performance could not have been a better showcase.
People in New York have understood how valuable Quickley is for a while. Everywhere else? Not so much. That is why such a notable national performance was key to Quickley having a fair shake at Sixth Man of the Year. If you think the average fan knew who Immanuel Quickley was and knew how good he was, please see JJ Redick’s Brunson rant.
Beyond not being a household name, Quickley has not had the conventional ‘sixth man’ profile. More often than not, when you think of the top sixth men in the league, you think of microwave scorers who are one of the top three scorers on the team — think 2021-22 winner Tyler Herro, Jamal Crawford, Lou Williams and Manu Ginobili. Ten of the last 17 sixth-man winners were also the highest-scoring reserve in the league that season.
That is not the case with Quickley. The fun comparison, and fan dream, early in Quickley’s career was Lou Williams 2.0. As time has gone on, however, Quickley has developed into a jack-of-all-trades type player versus the scorched earth scorer that Williams was as a standout sixth man.
Quickley does pack a scoring punch, even if his 13.4 points per game don’t show it. His points per game average is good enough for eighth among the top reserves, but outside the bubble of his main competition–Norman Powell, Bennedict Mathurin, Russell Westbrook and Malcolm Brogdon. Quickley stands out in his value to his team’s success. Unlike the others, Quickley can say he has more influence over his team’s success than the others.
He is the team’s stopgap. If the starting lineup is Thibodeau’s five best players, Quickley is the sixth man in the literal sense. He is the team’s best perimeter defender. He is holding opponents to 43.1% shooting from the field and can guard one through three. If a starting guard goes down, Quickley is the no-brainer fill-in.
Quickley is the only Knicks that can say they spent meaningful court time with every player on the team. That chemistry, no matter how small, has led to constant comfort for Quickley on the court, reflected on his well-distributed contribution. He is not a master of any one thing on offense, but effective in all categories. Given the proper minutes, he is a walking triple-double threat.
Sunday night was a perfect example of Quickley’s multifaceted impact, and how dangerous he can be with more minutes. The Knicks needed not only a fill-in at the starting point guard, they needed a star performance from that position if the win streak was going to live. Quickley played the role perfectly, and this was not a one-off.
Over the course of the season, there have been other instances of Quickley being relied upon in fill-in duty. Whether it is being asked to relieve Quentin Grimes when the neophyte gets foul-happy or to provide an offensive spark to a sluggish start, Quickley has delivered.
Prior to the Josh Hart trade, Quickley’s main job was squeezing every bit of potential out of a skeleton crew second unit. Obi Toppin missed extended time. A tight rotation left Derrick Rose, Evan Fournier and Cam Reddish out of the mix. Second-year players Deuce McBride and Jericho Sims had moments but showed they were not fully ready for a big role. That left a bulk of the second unit’s responsibilities on Quickley’s shoulders.
The remodeled bench mob with Josh Hart has improved things considerably, with the Knicks’ bench mob now posting the best net rating in the league among bench units, strengthening Quickley’s case.
The Celtics game catapulted Quickley up the Sixth Man of the Year rankings, with his odds to win the award going from +175 to -130 on Bet MGM. That is just from one game. With the basketball world finally tuned into the Knicks again, Quickley’s notoriety will continue to grow, and it could not come at a better time.
After two full seasons, it seems that the ever-unpredictably chaotic Immanuel Quickley has finally earned the trust of Tom Thibodeau. The lack of consistent minutes for Quickley in his first two seasons was a sticking point among fans. Now he has carved out a solid 28 minutes per game in 65 appearances. He no longer has to worry about a swift hook for taking a chance. Most of all, Thibodeau knows he could throw Quickley into an impossible situation and still feel like he has a puncher’s chance of winning.
The “Sixthmanuel” agenda went national at last. As the Knicks continue to shine, the agenda will grow, and maybe end with a New York Knick taking home some hardware at the end of the season.
»Read: Can The Knicks Find More Help in Free Agency?
»Read: The Knicks’ End-of-Season Outlook