Fan Duel Toronto Raptors

The Raptors address every need in Immanuel Quickley

The Raptors just addressed every question on the team. But did they create too many new ones?

OG Anunoby has for a long time been a staple of the Toronto Raptors. The only season of his career in which he wasn’t a permanent starter was in 2018-19, when there was a slightly more established player ahead of him on the depth chart. He changed the texture of the defense from day 1, and he was an established shooter immediately as well. After a churn of player at the small forward spot for years, the Raptors settled on Anunoby for more than half a decade.

And yet, he never became the star that so many of us thought he might be. For all his incremental improvement, his drives never became league average, and his self creation never became better than near the bottom of the league. He’s not a movement or pull-up shooter. That’s not to criticize him, but merely to state that he had limitations. The positives were far, far more important; he is one of the best non-star players in the league, largely on the back of his best-at-his-position defense. He finally made an All-Defense team last year, after deserving it for a year or two prior. He is an elite isolation stopper against virtually any position, a great gapper and floor-shrinker, and an elite steal generator either off the dribble or jumping passing lanes. Virtually every game last year and once every game or two this season he created two points out of thin air by pick-sixing the offense.

The Raptors will miss that horribly. It’s very possible that trading a player like Anunoby will result in a franchise spending the next decade looking for a player like him. Players like him don’t grow on trees. And yet the Raptors have also spent the last several years looking for a player like Immanuel Quickley. He will change the team tremendously.

For years, it has been clear what the Raptors have been missing. Shooting, pace, and rim pressure. Quickley is one of the best non-stars (yet) in the league at providing all three.

According to Second Spectrum, Quickley is shooting 38.8 percent on pull-up triples, which ranks just in between Steph Curry (above him) and Trae Young (below). That’s one of the best 20 or so self-creating shooters in the league. But even if doesn’t stay quite at that level, he is at 35 percent on his entire career — which is better than anything the Raptors have had since Kyle Lowry. Quickley is an enormously talented shooter, with deep pulls and a lightning quick release, and his ability to shoot from anywhere, at any time, will completely change the texture of Toronto’s offense.

Because teams have to play him as such a shooter, Quickley often finds himself forced inside the arc. And he is a very good driver, averaging just over 17 per 100 possessions (the 48th-highest frequency in the league). And this season, the Knicks have scored 1.038 points per chance on those drives, according to Second Spectrum. That’s above league average, but above league average for Toronto will be like manna raining from the heavens in the desert. The only Raptor whose drives have yielded that efficiency or better has been Pascal Siakam. Toronto has scored, as a point of comparison, 0.912 points per chance, well below league average, on Anunoby drives this season.

Quickley’s efficiency on drives comes largely from his floater excellence. Toronto has long lacked a guard who can create in the short midrange, and Quickley has one of the best floaters in the game. He’s shooting 59 percent on floaters, which is sixth-best in the league among 60 players with 30 or more attempts. His floaters basically are layups, and because he’s so devastating from that range, his passing will be simplified within Toronto’s system on the drive — with more opportunities to dump-offs because bigs will have to defend him higher.

He’s only shooting 52 percent on non-floaters from within the paint, so he’s not nearly the at-rim finisher that Anunoby was. He rarely attempts shots at the actual rim, and prefers to shoot from six feet instead of two feet. But Toronto has plenty of players who want to get all the way to the rim still, even without Anunoby. Quickley’s ability to score from 6 feet is much more impactful for this current team. He will convert on those drives after penetration from Pascal Siakam or Scottie Barnes in a way that no guard currently on the team can, and he’ll also create layups for those very teammates when bigs step up to contest his floaters. (And when he misses, the offensive rebounding opportunities will be that much more valuable, better than a miss from closer in because he’ll shift the big out of rebounding position.)

Add it all up, and a Quickley-led pick and roll is devastating. He has run 31.4 picks per 100 possessions for the Knicks, which ranks in the top 60 leaguewide. Expect that to bump up in Toronto, as he won’t have an All-Star point guard like Jalen Brunson around to sop up those touches. In Toronto he will be the primary guard. As was obvious before the year, no one has been able to run picks nearly to the same efficiency in Toronto, and Quickley will sop up touches left and right. But he has run more than 400 this season, and the Knicks have been elite during those chances.

New York has scored 1.051 points per chance on a Quickley-run pick, which ranks 19th among all players to have run 300 or more. Toronto has no one remotely close there. (Scottie Barnes is closest at 0.973 points per chance.) He doesn’t turn the ball over, and he’s fantastic at slamming on the brakes and drawing fouls. He does look to score first, second, and third during those chances, and Toronto will look to develop his adaptability there.

Quickley isn’t the world’s best passer, and the Knicks have been much more efficient with him shooting rather than passing out of the pick and roll. He doesn’t make a ton of reads on the move, and indeed he has only eight assists as the pick-and-roll handler all year. When he does pass in the pick and roll, it’s generally using an easy read to an open shooter or for a reset. That’s not very good. But he can use his gravity to create space for his short roller, which will greatly benefit Toronto’s stable of great-passing bigs like Scottie Barnes and Jakob Poeltl. Quickley has never played with anyone like Barnes, who will use these touches to benefit the team-wide offense.

Not everything for Quickley involves him handling the ball, of course. Toronto has two very good ball-handlers in Siakam and Barnes (more on that in a moment), and Quickley will spend plenty of time without the ball in his hands.

Good thing he is one of the better movement shooters, as well. He is an even better shooter off the catch than off the bounce, but he’s able to take a huge variety of shots off the catch — more than Anunoby. He has a very flexible core, and his jumper is so compact and fast that he can pull while sprinting around a screen. The Raptors haven’t had a movement shooter with this level of proficiency since … ever? I’m not sure. Danny Green wasn’t as fluid, and Fred VanVleet wasn’t as accurate. Terrence Ross? We’re nitpicking here to find a comparison, but the point is that this is a weapon the Raptors have entirely lacked on this squad, and very much needed. He is attempting five triples a game, but there’s no reason that can’t be bumped up to eight or nine or more given his ability to get ’em up. That’s a real skill, and one that no one on Toronto outside of Gary Trent jr. has at the moment.

Quickley is probably better as a cutter and secondary attack than primary creator at this point, largely because of his incredible speed and relative passing deficits. Among players to have received at least 100 handoffs, Quickley ranks ninth for points per chance, averaging 1.108. He is just below players like Tyrese Maxey and Damian Lillard, but the five players of whom he is just ahead is quite the list: Luka Doncic, Donovan Mitchell, Jamal Murray, Devin Booker, and Steph Curry. This is guard heaven, and Quickley belongs.

Such vicious and dynamic attacks will create more space for every other Raptor, and it’s the type of devastation that no one on Toronto has been able to provide. According to Second Spectrum, he has the fourth-highest acceleration load in the league, meaning he goes from first gear to second faster than virtually any other player in basketball. He just teleports into the lane. That, combined with the shooting, will change the entire framework of Toronto’s offense. Barnes and Siakam may not be playing out of telephone boxes anymore.

Quickley has never averaged 30 minutes a game. He has never been more than a spot starter. He is about to have his own team, so things could be very different in Toronto — for better or worse. If the numbers hold true and scale up, Quickley would be one of the best point guards in the league. But scalability cannot be assumed. Quickley’s passing will certainly need to come along if he is to play 35 minutes a night as Toronto’s lead guard. His reads are elementary at this point, with plenty of room for improvement. But he will also play alongside two elite creators at forward, so even creating small advantages for them will mean much more for Toronto.

And if it works, this could bring Toronto’s offense into modernity. This is the exact type of player with whom Barnes has long been needing to play. Barnes is great at making plays in space, and Quickley is great at creating space. Also: Barnes is great at creating space, and Quickley is great at making plays within it. The two will combine as pick-and-roll combos (with either handling and either screening) as well as handoff combos to deadly effect. Or, Quickley and Siakam will do the same. The options for high horns with Quickley as the handler, or ghost screens with Quickley as the screener, or get actions, my goodness. I’m very excited. Toronto simply hasn’t ever had a player to unlock Barnes and Siakam. Quickley will do that.

Quickley is 24 years old and has gotten better with consistency in his time in the league. He has never had an opportunity like he’s about to receive in Toronto. He hasn’t proven to be as good a player as Anunoby to this point in his career, but he certainly does more of what Toronto needs. And if his abilities are scalable, then he might just become a better player than Anunoby very, uhh, Quickly.

Defensively, he’s very solid as a guard, even if he’s nothing like Anunoby. He has never been an event generator, creating blocks and steals, but New York has consistently been much better defensively with him on the floor versus off for his entire career. (His defensive on/offs have vacillated between 80th and 99th percentile for his career, so that’s a pretty good sign for a productive defender.) Opponents have scored well this year in picks defended by Quickley, and defensive stats don’t capture impact to nearly the same extent as offensive stats. I’m withholding judgement on his defensive ability, but my instinct early on is that he’s above average as a guard.

Toronto’s defense will very, very much miss Anunoby. Perhaps it won’t be able to recover from the loss of by far its most impactful contributor there. There is now no real stopper in isolation, and the Raptors will be looking for one for perhaps a long time. The loss of Precious Achiuwa there will hurt as well, as he was Toronto’s second-best wing stopper. But the offense will be so much better it might not matter.

There are questions. But Quickley will provide answers to virtually every other question already on the roster. The Raptors, at least, are about to be fun again.