With the Summer League just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to look back on last year’s first-round pick Quentin Grimes. Rewind to this time last year: After a surprising campaign in which they catapulted themselves to the 4th seed and made their first playoff appearance since 2013, there was a lot of pressure on the team and the front office to build on the momentum of the season and bring in a play that would take this team to the next level.
With picks 19 and 21 in their hands, the Knicks had the potential to add some key plays. Instead, they ended up swapping them. Fans want to see their teams pick high in the draft, so when the Knicks ended up having only the 25th pick in the first round, fans were a little upset.
Fast forward to 2022, and “upset” is one of the last words Knicks fans will use to describe Quentin Grimes’ pick. Coming out of the University of Houston, Grimes was expected to be an excellent shooter with very strong defensive skills. He was all of that and more during his rookie campaign.
He didn’t get many minutes at the start…not surprising for a rook playing on a Tom Thibodeau team. The Knicks started the season 5-1 with him barely playing, so the decision to seat Grimes seemed to be working out well for New York. But when the Knicks began to struggle, Thibodeau leaned even more heavily on starters and vets. When Grimes finally started to seize his opportunity due to injury and rotational upset, he made the most of it. On December 12, the Knicks hosted defending champion Milwaukee Bucks at the Garden. With RJ Barrett on the sidelines and Kemba Walker on the bench, Grimes got his first NBA start. He didn’t disappoint, bursting for 27 points on 9/17 from the field and 7/13 from deep while playing very good defense and also adding three assists, three rebounds and three steals.
Knicks fans were thrilled that this under-hyped shooting guard went from not playing to suddenly looking like one of the Knicks’ best players. Hours after the game, fans were begging Thibodeau to release Grimes for the rest of the season.
Unfortunately for Grimes and the Knicks, he would miss 21 of the 55 games remaining in the season. He was first sidelined due to COVID protocols the day after his breakout performance against the Bucks. Upon his return he had a very nice 25 game streak where he averaged 8.1 PPG 2.6 RPG, 1.3 APG and 0.9 SPG in 23.1 mpg. Although the numbers don’t necessarily stand out, he played very well overall. He was playing great one-on-one perimeter defense on some of the best offensive players in the league and starting to look like one of the best shooters in the league. That streak was evidenced by a 20-point performance against the Trail Blazer on Feb. 12, which was followed by a 19-point performance two days later against the Thunder. Fans expected the rookie to continue earning playing time and hitting his stride in the second half of the season.
Unfortunately, Grimes will suffer a knee injury (partially dislocated kneecap) against the Miami Heat in the Knicks’ first game after the All-Star break and he only played six games the rest of the way. In those six games, Grimes was averaging just 3.7 PPG in 14.9 MPG and he just wasn’t moving the same. The numbers weren’t there, the game time wasn’t there, and the eyesight test wasn’t there either. And while sports fans can often get stuck in a “what have you done for me lately” attitude, it’s important for Knicks fans to take the 25-game sampler mentioned earlier in the few games he played to end the season.
Grimes and his rookie season cannot be judged by his stats alone. His numbers on the season, just like his game, are not going to impress you at first sight. The 6 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 assists per game on 40.1% of the field doesn’t really scream “first-round pick” at all. But if you watched him when he was healthy and gaining long minutes, you would know that Grimes lived up to expectations and even went above and beyond. His three-point shot, a product of his crisp, near-perfect shooting movement, was as advertised. His defense was better than expected for a rookie, and he has all the intangibles that winning teams always seem to have. He’s not afraid to take big hits, he scrambles for every loose ball, has no ego. And you know he works hard because if he hadn’t, then Thibodeau wouldn’t have played him.
Great defense from Knicks rookie Quentin Grimes on that possession, staying with Andrew Wiggins on the drive and stripping him down on the rally pic.twitter.com/5wIHWNJI7g
—Charlie Cummings (@klaytheist11) February 12, 2022
In Grimes, the Knicks may have found the perfect role player. Players who can shoot and defend – 3-and-D players as we now call them – are one of the league’s most sought-after products. And Grimes fits that bill perfectly. He’s a knockdown shooter who, with his ability to play off the ball and still be effective, can space the floor for guys like RJ Barrett and Julius Randle (if he’s still around next season). During his rookie campaign, Grimes showed an incredible ability to not only hit shots from beyond the arc, but he also proved excellent at reading defenses and slipping into open space. So instead of relying on Randle or Barrett to find the passing angles, Grimes gets open shots himself and makes it easier for the ball handlers to create the angles himself.
Grimes is already one of the best perimeter defensemen on the team, along with fellow rookie Deuce McBride. The former Houston Cougars guard was always active with his hands and was also a very good team defender when asked to turn or shut down as well. And with more work on his body and more experience in the league, he should obviously continue to improve in those two skills while adding more to the other aspects of his game. Although he will probably never become what you’d call a star, we should still be thrilled the Knicks have a young wing that has shown the potential to be a great role player, who can fit in with anyone and play in any system. .