Knicks’ Quentin Grimes stands out in the NBA Summer League

LAS VEGAS – The best thing that can be said about a player in the NBA Summer League is that he doesn’t belong there.

Such a player stands out too much. He’s gotten to a point where he should be sitting in designer sunglasses on the sidelines alongside the established players who come to Las Vegas to party and gamble.

This is what it felt like to watch Quentin Grimes play the Knicks’ first three games. The sophomore guard talked a big game about dominating in the days before the glorified, nationally televised scrimmages. He backed up his words – and not just by knocking over jumpers. Grimes was the total package incorporating playmaking into his 3-and-D skills.

The Knicks were best when he was on the ground, beating their three opponents by 39 points. Grimes has done a lot more than hit, despite doing so at the elite level, averaging 24 points on 46.1 percent shooting. He dished (4.3 assists). He attacked the basket. He defended and rebounded (4.0).

Quentin Grimes #6 of the Knicks shoots the ball during a game against the Portland Trail Blazers during the 2022 Las Vegas Summer League on July 11, 2022 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Quentin Grimes shares a pair of Blazers defensemen as he heads to the basket.
NBAE via Getty Images

Grimes, the 25th overall pick in the 2021 draft, seemed poised to force coach Tom Thibodeau to give him a major role next season. Grimes certainly won’t be returning to Las Vegas next summer – unless he wants to catch a few games.

A few other takeaways from Summer League:

  • Seeing the Jericho Sims color controlling, knocking opponents down and serving as the backbone for the Knicks’ defense, it made sense that Taj Gibson would choose not to return to the Knicks after being fired. Sims appeared ready to be a part of Thibodeau’s rotation, showing the offensive versatility the manager spoke of late in the season. Most impressive was Sims’ agility with the ball in his hands, his ability to catch a rebound and switch himself or find an open teammate when a doubles team came up. The Knicks’ best position next year could be center, with Sims serving as the No. 3 behind Mitchell Robinson and newcomer Isaiah Hartenstein.
  • The Knicks started every game well. They played with the kind of passion, focus and intensity at the defensive end that Thibodeau demands. They treated the competitions with a seriousness that cannot be entirely dismissed. Yes, summer league match results do not count. Most players for the Knicks and opposition will not have roles next season. But their attention to detail on the defensive end, their rush and stepping in to help when someone was hit was unlike much seen from other teams. They haven’t conceded more than 88 points in any game, and they get a pass for their subpar defensive efforts in the second half of their Monday night loss to the Trail Blazers as it was the second game in a row against a rested opponent.
  • Unknown players make statements all the time in Las Vegas. Unassuming prospects attract everyone’s attention. That didn’t happen with the Knicks. The guys who were guaranteed squad spots – Miles McBride, Grimes and Sims – were clearly their best players. Forward Feron Hunt, on a two-way contract, was solid and provided energy and explosion in the transition. But aside from hitting a few jumpers, Jean Montero — the undrafted rookie who paid players last year in Overtime Elite, the new high school league — didn’t stand out. He needs to get stronger and develop his playing skills. The 6-foot-2 Montero had an assist in three games. The Knicks’ only draft pick from 2022, runner-up Trevor Keels showed some insight with his offensive mindset on both ends of the floor, but the scouting report on him — that he needs to improve his jump shot and get in better shape – it was on the money. He only made 6 of 28 shots but averaged five rebounds and 2.3 assists.
  • There have been a number of players with connections to the area, from Julian Champagnie (St John’s) to Ron Harper Jr (Rutgers) and Jared Rhoden (Seton Hall). The best actor? LJ Figueroa, Champagnie’s teammate for one season in Queens. The 6-6 wing didn’t miss a single shot in his first two games for the Hornets and built a strong G-League season with the Santa Cruz Warriors (Golden State’s affiliate), in which he recorded 16.4 points, 8th and 8th points .8 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Figueroa was a perfect 13-on-13 from the field and 4-on-4 from long range, with 15.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists. His performance could land him a two-way contract with Charlotte — or another NBA team.

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