Immanuel Quickley has hit a new level

Immanuel Quickley has unlocked something in his game.

As the Raptors earnestly navigate their state of flux — in search of talent, wins, lessons, the ever-elusive ideal culture for a basketball team — they are, of course, defined by the players on the team. Scottie Barnes’ chase down of a well deserved All-Star selection was a guardrail for the season, and his development certainly would have continued to be if he didn’t join the elite brotherhood of broken 3rd metacarpals (we’re getting t-shirts made); however, the team has been ravaged by injuries, and Immanuel Quickley is now the King of Touches.

The nice thing about all of this is that Quickley is young enough to justify development reps, and good enough that it can still be fun basketball while he tries all of this out – this isn’t rookie season, age 25, Jae’Sean Tate (sorry Jae’Sean). Quickley making the jump from less than 70 touches per game prior to the All-Star break, all the way north of 80 after it, is mainlining data and info that both he and the Raptors can use to guide his approach to development in the offseason.

Truthfully, Quickley has underwhelmed as a Raptor, relative to expectations. Many analysts and fans thought he was primed to pop as soon as he was handed the keys to an offense. In the change from 6-man gunner to lead guard, Quickley has seen his assist-percentage skyrocket and his overall scoring efficiency dwindle as he tries to find the middle ground in his new role. The expectation, quite frankly, was for Quickley to pair tremendously well with Scottie Barnes and for them to supercharge a host of 2-man actions, and they’ve struggled with their synergy to this point. In fact, Quickley has been creating with a rotating cast of bigs that range from All-Star to G-Leaguer. It’s mostly the latter lately, and that makes what he’s been doing all the more impressive.

Quickley is an unbelievable shooter, canning 42% of his catch-and-shoot threes, 39% of his pull-ups, and on nearly the same volume – which is massive. He’s shooting 45% on above-the-break threes as a Raptor, hit on 43% of them as a Knick, and as everyone should know by now: above-the-break threes are infinitely more valuable than their corner counterparts, because defenses have a significantly harder time squashing volume there. He is, full stop, one of the best shooters in the world.

Lead guards have to be able to do everything on the court at any given time. I often times think about Darius Garland, his insane talent level and production, and the fact that he’s still well off All-Star level relative to other guards in the NBA. Quickley is a good guard, will be paid as such this summer, and still there lies a chasm between he and stardom.

On the Raptors Show at the end of January, I had talked about how the extra dribble was imperative for Quickley to extend his drives, and how that would strengthen his prowess as a scorer and playmaker greatly. His pre and post-All Star process includes a stark contrast in how deep he’s taking his drives, the extra dribbles he’s using, and most importantly: a massive uptick in his scoring efficiency and assist-percentage.

Pre All-Star: 10.8 drives per game / 35% FG / 10% assist-rate / 4.7 pts

Post All-Star: 11.4 drives per game / 54.5% FG / 18.7% assist-rate / 5.5 pts

And no, this jump in efficiency isn’t just a random spike in floaters or middies made, or anything like that. Quickley is shooting 33% on short middies and 14% on long ones since the All-Star break. Quickley is turning more of his short mid-range attempts into rim attempts — Pre ASB: 14% of shots at rim, 34% of shots in short mid-range. Post ASB: 20% of shots at rim, 25% of shots in short mid range — launching his efficiency upward as a scorer, and creating more laydowns for his bigs and cutting wings.

Quickley could’ve bailed out of the drive with the strong-side dig, but he stays middle, keeps the dribble alive and dimes up Boucher. Great stuff. We also see him Nash the pnr, use his eyes to manipulate Bogdanovic and find Gradey Dick. Take his dribble to the baseline and swing to the corner. Take his drive deeper to make the low man step up and open up the lob. Keep the dribble alive to time up RJ’s cut. All great plays, and indicators of better process.

Quickley has had entire games as a Raptor without any halfcourt assists, and part of the big jump in assist-percentage as a Raptor is directly tied to more transition, and an offense that creates more assists in general – he’s part of that ecosystem. However, we just saw an 18 assist performance where 13 assists came in the halfcourt, and 5 of those were advantage assists. 5/13 isn’t a great ratio necessarily, but Quickley can’t control whether or not GTJ bangs a pull-up triple after a rudimentary shovel pass. Five advantage assists in a game is a great number on its own, though.

As of March 4th, Quickley was creating .991 points per chance on the pass out of the pick n’ roll (which is below average), and .764 points per chance (really, really bad) as the shooter out of the pick n’ roll as a Raptor. As a Knick, those numbers were .991 (on the pass, same number, crazy) and 1.107 (on the shot). He’s been struggling a lot in Toronto. Darko told me: “When we look at the numbers it’s important to also look at the types of defense that is being played against him. He’s been seeing a lot of trap, and blitz.” adding later “what’s most important, is that we see him making the right play.” We’ll dive into some of the film on the blitz/trap later, but even with the added context of playtype, Quickley needed more punch as a scorer, and we’ve seen him take significant steps recently.

We’re still working with a small sample size, but with Quickley changing his process he’s basically gone from a bad driver to a good one. That’s huge, and that’s just one facet of his playmaking.

Another facet? How Quickley’s gravity as a shooter warps defenses. A quick, easy example, is right here:

The Raptors employ Spain Leak and a rudimentary slip screen to create two open looks for Quickley in the exact same spot. The cause and effect of it all creates an easy playmaking opportunity as Quickley moves the ball on to Dick in the corner. When you shoot 45-percent on ATB threes? You’re going to draw big, aggressive closeouts that allow you to make progressive reads.

As further proof of this concept, we can see how the threat of Quickley’s pull-up shooting (that ever important 39% mark) creates drastic defensive responses out of the pick n’ roll that allow his teammates to play 4-on-3, and we see him drag and pull players all over the court in open, reactive play.

So, it’s not just that Quickley is averaging roughly 21pts/6.5rbs/8asts on 60% TS since the All-Star break — and don’t get me wrong, the counting stats are nice — but, it’s that all the underlying stuff is trending up as well.

Basketball is all about operating from a point of strength. Creating advantages with those strengths, and then continuing to diversify against an increasing amount of defensive responses. Quickley is one of the world’s best shooters, and with these Raptors he’s getting a shot to build out everything else. It’s been fun. Excited to see more.

Have a blessed day.