The Knicks are two games into the summer league in Las Vegas. There was a ton of good, and not-so-good, from New York’s young guys.

New York Knicks basketball has (kinda) returned! The 2021 NBA Summer League is in full swing in Las Vegas, Nevada. The SummerKnicks have two games under their belt, losing their opener to the Toronto Raptors and following it up the next day by defeating the Indiana Pacers in a close contest.

Of course, the Summer League is the first taste of NBA action for rookies and is a period to get more extended looks at young players and guys who will likely end up in the G League. So there couldn’t be a more perfect time to form definitive reactions and opinions of certain players. These scrimmages have written the fate for every young player who participated in them.

Miles McBride is already an All-Defensive First-Team member and Obi Toppin could be the Knicks’ third-leading scorer this season! Did you hear that New York is destined to win the title thanks to the addition of Jericho Sims, the modern Wilt Chamberlain? Well, unfortunately, Quentin Grimes might not be around for the good times because he can’t score inside the arc at all. Immanuel Quickley almost shot his way out of the Knicks rotation with a poor shooting performance but he’s all good now.

Alright, enough lollygagging. Let’s actually assess how the marquee players on the Knicks’ summer-league team have played so far. I’ll issue a rating of thumbs up or down. Keep in mind that these ratings may not carry over to the regular season, as the example from a rookie Kevin Knox shows.

Immanuel Quickley: two thumbs up

The lead guard for this summer Knicks squad, Quickley initially struggled to orchestrate the offense. He had no issue making the right passes, as he put up eight assists in game one. But he struggled to make an impact simply because he couldn’t buy a shot. He got all the separation he wanted from defenders, looking like Allen Iverson the way he crossed up anyone brave enough to challenge him, but he shot just 5-of-17 from the field.

Then, Quickley did something absolutely ludicrous: shook off the rust he had from not playing competitive basketball for a few months. He dropped 32 points on the Pacers—and eight assists, again—on 11-of-21 shooting.

Quickley balancing playmaking and scoring are crucial for him to improve. The Summer League isn’t the vicinity to determine whether or not he actually has done so yet, but his passing has been very promising so far. He’s been New York’s primary initiator offensively and has done a great job creating open looks for himself and finding teammates for buckets. Add in some good defensive effort and he’s got himself some strong summer-league showings, inefficient first game and all.

Obi Toppin: two thumbs up

Toppin has only looked better as he continues his career. He went from looking iffy most of his rookie season to looking really confident in the playoffs to looking dominant in the Summer League. Okay, a change in opponents may explain such dominance. But Toppin has looked absolutely terrific nonetheless.

The most obvious improvement is how much more aggressive he is with the ball now. He has attacked the basket with tenacity, using his strength to get through the defense and dexterity to put the ball in the hoop. His jump shot looks quicker and smoother and he looked more comfortable shooting while on the move. Defensively, Toppin made plays and looks more confident moving in open space.

While it should be somewhat expected for the 23-year-old selected eighth overall in the 2020 draft to look like one of the better players out there, Toppin’s ability to score at will has been very promising. He scored a team-high 24 points in the opening game and 22 in the next. The Obi stock started very low but has only gone up, and it will continue to rise if he keeps up this level of play.

Quentin Grimes: one thumb up

New York’s first-round pick from a few weeks ago hasn’t done too bad for himself. Grimes is exactly what the Knicks thought he would be.

On offense, Grimes has been a quick decision-maker. He hasn’t looked to do a whole lot of playmaking, though he did have four assists in game one. His shooting is worth believing in, as his form is crisp and quick. He shot 3-for-8 from deep in the first game and 2-of-6 in game number two. The Knicks should have no problem using Grimes as a catch-and-shoot specialist early on as he develops his ball-handling and off-the-dribble scoring further.

Defensively, Grimes has gotten after it. He stays down in his stance, flies around the court to contest shots, and hasn’t been afraid to dive on the floor for loose balls. Both the “3” and “D” elements of Grimes’ game have been on display. He has looked very comfortable so far and should earn himself a big role if he keeps it up.

Deuce McBride: one thumb up

McBride, the 36th pick in the 2021 draft, was billed as the quintessential Thibs Guy. All he has done through two summer-league games is back up that sentiment.

Knicks fans are already falling in love with McBride for his pesky defense. He recorded a steal in each game and is an energetic ball hawk in the passing lanes. He maneuvers around screens well and battles every possession.

McBride is also shooting the ball well. His shot mechanics are super clean, both on the catch and off the dribble. At times, his lack of explosive athleticism has hampered his finishing near the hoop. That’s one wrinkle he’ll definitely have to iron out but it shouldn’t be so disastrous that it hampers his playing time.

I think McBride has been the Knicks’ best perimeter defender so far. His knack for disrupting offenses should earn him playing time even in a crowded point-guard rotation.

Jericho Sims: three thumbs up

I don’t have enough hands to signify how well Jericho Sims has performed so far. The Knicks announced that the team signed Sims to a two-way contract during the first game. He played like a guy looking to earn a spot on the 15-man roster.

Sims’ offensive repertoire is more than just dunks—although he threw down plenty of those, as the Raptors’ Freddie Gillespie can attest to. In addition to dunks, Sims has displayed an impressive sense of footwork and timing. He didn’t always go right up with the ball, displaying some hook shots in the post and runners in the paint. He also crashed the offensive glass really well, collecting five offensive boards across two games.

On defense, Sims again showed tremendous poise and discipline. He moved his feet pretty well and didn’t bite on shot fakes all the time. His path to playing time in real games is clogged with proven players ahead of him but Sims showed out big time in his first two games.

Once upon a time, uber-athletic big man Kenny Wooten dunked his way into Knicks fans’ dreams in the Summer League, only to never play for the team in the regular season. Hopefully, for the Knicks, they keep him around longer than they did Wooten.

Luca Vildoza: shrug

Vildoza didn’t play a whole lot in either game. He took a charge in his first possession and dished three times in the first game but didn’t contribute much else. He struggled to create space from defenders and didn’t score in either game. Perhaps fatigue from the Olympics should be considered, as he was a key player for Argentina. Regardless, he hasn’t done much yet. But there’s still time to do so.

Rokas Jokubaitis: shrug

Jokubaitis picked up a surprising DNP in the first game, one of three in which he got permission to play in from his overseas team, Barcelona. The 34th overall pick got nine minutes of playing time in the second game, showing a few nice glimpses but not enough for me to say he had an overall good game.

Daisuke Yoshimoto: one thumb up

The head coach for the SummerKnicks deserves some props. Yoshimoto, an assistant coach on Tom Thibodeau’s staff, has the team replicating its intense defensive identity in the scrimmages. The Knicks have been active in the passing lanes and rotate with gusto.

Offensively, the Knicks share the ball really well. It always finds the open man and there’s plenty of off-ball movement to get shooters open and cutters going to the hoop. The SummerKnicks have shot a lot of threes, too. Across both games, the Knicks have shot 49.3% of their field goals from deep, an increase of nearly 15% from their regular-season mark.

Aside from not playing Jokubaitis in game one, Yoshimoto is doing just what you would want him to do with his playing time distribution. Toppin, Quickley, Grimes, Sims, and McBride get the bulk of playing time, with Wayne Selden, a 26-year-old wing looking to get back to the big leagues after short stints with three teams, also getting a big share of minutes. While seeing Vildoza and Jokubaitis more would be preferable, at least Yoshimoto isn’t unnecessarily playing veterans over young guys. Perhaps that’s something he could teach Thibs.

(Editor’s note: We updated the piece to fix an error saying “Grimes has been the Knicks’ best perimeter defender” to Miles McBride, the author’s original intent.)

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