Scouting how Quentin Grimes can elevate the Knicks

Scouting how Quentin Grimes can elevate the Knicks

It wasn’t one particular thing that Quentin Grimes did in the past two games that wowed you. It wasn’t just his shot-making or his defense or his play-making or his ball-moving.

It was everything.

It was a glimpse into why the Knicks and coach Tom Thibodeau are so high on him. It was what everyone saw during the Las Vegas Summer League, when the second-year guard was so impressive across the board, showing he was more than just a spot-up shooter.

With Cam Reddish and Derrick Rose missing the final two games of the recent five-game road trip due to injury, the Knicks finally unleashed Grimes, and he produced at both ends of the floor. He had 10 points, eight assists and five rebounds in a loss to the Suns, and he put up eight points, five rebounds and two steals in a win over Thunder. He started and played at least 32 minutes in each contest.

Quentin Grimes of the New York Knicks hits a 3-pointer during a game against the Golden State Warriors.
Quentin Grimes has a reputation as a knockdown shooter. But there’s more to his game.
via Twitter

Eight days after allowing Oklahoma City to put up 145 points at the Garden, the Knicks held the Thunder in check. Grimes was a factor — the Knicks outscored the Thunder by nine points while he was on the floor — helping to limit star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander into an inefficient 9-of-22 shooting performance.

It was a long time coming for the 6-foot-4 Grimes, who missed almost the entire preseason due to a sore left foot and a large chunk of the first month to the season as the foot continued to act up. Finally healthy and able to log major minutes, Grimes produced, and he could be solidifying himself as the starting shooting guard (even after Cam Reddish returns from a groin injury). Grimes may have had the job on opening night if not for the foot injury.

My favorite thing about how Grimes performed on the offensive end was his quick decisions. He doesn’t dribble much, preferring to act quickly, whether that’s swinging the ball, attacking or looking for his shot.

Check out this assertive drive for a layup against the Thunder after taking a pass outside the 3-point arc:

Quentin Grimes of the New York Knicks drives for a basket against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
via Twitter

Or this drive and dish to Isaiah Hartenstein from the Suns game:

Quentin Grimes of the New York Knicks delivers an assist to Isaiah Hartenstein in a game against the Phoenix Suns.
via Twitter

When the Knicks have struggled at the offensive end, it’s often been the result of the offense stagnating and resorting to too much isolation play. Jalen Brunson has improved their flow, and Grimes will add to it. Thibodeau likes to say: The game tells you what to do. Grimes just seems to play with that line in mind. He frequently makes the right play.

Defensively, the 22-year-old Texan doesn’t have great size for a wing, but he’s physical, quick and smart. He has active hands, can stay in front of his man — a major bonus for the Knicks, who have struggled defending the perimeter — and does his best to challenge every shot.

Quentin Grimes of the New York Knicks contests a shot by Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker.
Grimes contests a jumper by Suns star Devin Booker.
via Twitter

He competes. Grimes just feels like a Thibodeau type of player.

Now, look, it is an obviously small sample size. Grimes needs to stay healthy. He has to continue to perform. He is still very unproven. Who knows where this goes from here? But the Knicks didn’t want to lose Grimes during offseason trade talks with the Jazz regarding Donovan Mitchell because of the potential they saw in him. The last two games showed glimpses of that upside.

Home, get cooking

Through nearly a quarter of the season, the Knicks have performed better on the road than at home when you consider the level of competition. They own road wins over the Timberwolves, 76ers (albeit without James Harden and Joel Embiid), Jazz, Nuggets and Thunder. They played the Grizzlies and Cavaliers very tough.

Now they need to perform better against quality opponents at home. The Knicks are 4-3 at the Garden, but those four wins have come against the Pistons (twice), Magic and extremely shorthanded Hornets, teams that are a combined 15-42. They weren’t really even in the game late in the fourth quarter of their three losses against the Celtics, Thunder and Hawks, and that’s despite holding big first-half leads against the latter two. Their defense was particularly bad in those losses, allowing an average of 130 points and combined 48.3 percent 3-point shooting.

Jericho Sims #45 of the New York Knicks grabs a rebound against the Oklahoma City Thunder on November 13, 2022 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.
Are the Knicks’ relative struggles at Madison Square Garden carrying over from last season?
NBAE via Getty Images

The upcoming slate will give the Knicks a chance to begin to build a home-court advantage, and they’ll need to beat projected playoff teams to do it. The Trail Blazers and Grizzlies stop by this weekend, the Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo visit Wednesday, and the Mavericks and Cavaliers make up a daunting back-to-back starting a week from Saturday before the Hawks and Trae Young return three days later.

This isn’t a new problem. The Knicks were 17-24 at the Garden last year. Only three teams in the Eastern Conference — the Pistons, Pacers and Magic — won fewer times at home.

Griffin taking flight

Westchester native and one-and-done Duke wing A.J. Griffin was linked to the Knicks in the lead-up to June’s NBA Draft. Several experts projected Griffin to the Knicks with the 11th overall selection.

But team president Leon Rose never made a selection, instead trading the pick to the Thunder for three future first-round picks. The Knicks then acquired the No. 13 pick in exchange for five future draft picks and dealt it to the Pistons, along with Kemba Walker, to shed his $9.2 million salary.

Justin Holiday #8 and Trae Young #11 celebrates with teammate AJ Griffin #14 of the Atlanta Hawks after the game against the Toronto Raptors on November 19, 2022.
A.J. Griffin’s emergence with the Hawks reframes the Knicks’ decision to trade out of the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft.
NBAE via Getty Images

Griffin is off to a nice start with the Hawks, who took him with the No. 16 pick. With De’Andre Hunter out of the lineup earlier this week, Griffin played 30-plus minutes in back-to-back games, scoring 17 points in each, including the game-winning layup in an overtime victory Saturday over the Raptors. On Wednesday night, he returned to the bench and scored 12 points in 24 minutes. Most noteworthy, Griffin is shooting 39.1 percent from deep. The Knicks are next-to-last in the league in 3-point shooting percentage at 31.6 percent, barely ahead of the Lakers (30.6).

Now, it should be noted that by trading out of the first round the Knicks were able to clear enough salary-cap space to land Jalen Brunson, who has been a home run of a signing, and they did add future draft assets that could be used to land a coveted superstar down the road.

Griffin, 19, was far from a home run. Teams were concerned about his injury history, the limited athleticism he showed at Duke and his lack of consistency, scouts told The Post prior to the draft. But he has been productive for the 11-7 Hawks, averaging 8.6 points in 16.9 minutes, and has outplayed wings such as Ochai Agbaji and Johnny Davis who were selected ahead of him.