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Has Quentin Grimes become the heart of the Knicks’ turnaround?

Quentin Grimes Knicks
Quentin Grimes
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks won their fifth straight game last night, topping the Bulls 128-120 in overtime, and despite not dominating the box score, a big reason for the win was the play of Quentin Grimes. 

A cursory glance at the box score will reveal that Jalen Brunson played through a foot injury to put up 30 points and seven assists. It will also show that Julius Randle finished with 31 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists (it also won’t show his damaging tendency for ISO-ball in the fourth quarter). However, the box score will simply show that Quentin Grimes had 14 points and five assists.

In truth, his impact on the game was far greater than that. 

He hit 4-of-7 from beyond the arc and knocked down three monumentally important shots down the stretch. The first broke a tie game with 4:18 left in the fourth quarter, the next one was with under a minute left and the Knicks holding onto a one-point lead, and the last was a three-pointer with 1:04 left in overtime and his team up three (after Randle took far too long to pass out of a triple team). 

Those big shots, plus the two assists, one steal, one block, and only two turnovers are the reason why Grimes was a team-high +14 in this game. However, we’ve also seen that impact over New York’s five-game winning streak and the 12 games he has been a starter.

In a lot of ways, Quentin Grimes has been a key catalyst in this Knicks turnaround. 

A lot of Grimes’ value starts on the defensive end. The Knicks have a defensive rating of 107.6 when Grimes is on the court, which is tremendous since their rating is 112.1 when he sits (higher is worse here). His net offense and defense rating of 6.6 is also the second-best on the team, behind Miles McBride. 

On the season, the Knicks have a plus/minus of +2.8 when Grimes is on the court, the highest of any player on the team. Immanuel Quickley is second at +2.7, and McBride is third at +2.4. In contrast, the Knicks have been -3.7 with Evan Fournier on the court, -0.5 with RJ Barrett on the floor, and -0.1 with Randle on the court. 

NBA.com also has a stat called Player Impact Estimate, which seeks to measure just how much a player positively or negatively impacts his team’s performance when he’s on the court. Grimes’ score when he is on the court is 52.5, which is the third highest of any New York regular, behind Quickley and McBride.

His effectiveness carries over if you use FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR as well. RAPTOR “uses play-by-play and player-tracking data to calculate each player’s individual plus-minus measurements and wins above replacement, which accounts for playing time.” Grimes has a +6.2 defensive RAPTOR score, which is second-best on the Knicks (behind Quickley), and his +6.7 total offense and defense RAPTOR is the second-best on the team behind Mitchell Robinson. 

So the advanced metrics all support Grimes being one of the most impactful players on the Knicks, but the eye test can tell you the same thing. 

The 22-year-old is second on the team by shooting 34.9% from beyond the arc, and we saw last night that he doesn’t shy away from the big moments. He also was tremendous defensively at the end of the game, switching onto DeMarr DeRozen to take the Bulls’ star out of the game. It’s something he’s done throughout this month, including his defensive performance against Donovan Mitchell last week. 

As a result, he has become an incredibly valuable 3-and-D asset for New York and has the versatility to start at shooting guard and also slide to small forward to accommodate lineups that include him, Quickley, and McBride. (For the record, the team is +16 when those three are on the court together). 

While Brunson, Barrett, and Randle will likely dominate the headlines, especially as the Knicks keep winning, something truly special is happening with the development of Quentin Grimes and it’s time we all started to pay attention. 

For more Knicks coverage, like this Quentin Grimes story, visit amNY Sports

Quentin Grimes New York Knicks
New York guard Quentin Grimes (6) gets the ball stripped by Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) as Suns guard Devin Booker (1) avoids a collision during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Phoenix, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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