From the Bench to Starter: Immanuel Quickley’s Rise

From the Bench to Starter: Immanuel Quickley’s Rise article feature image

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images) Pictured: Immanuel Quickley.

With Immanuel Quickley's third game as a Raptor fast approaching, I wanted to dive into why I keep betting him, and what to expect from Toronto going forward. But first, I wanted to discuss three other past Sixth Man of the Year candidate guards and their transition to becoming a starter.

The Good: Tyler Herro

In the 2022 season, Tyler Herro averaged 20.7 points off the bench for the Miami Heat, who finished with the No. 1 seed in the East. A high-scoring, ball-dominant guard, Herro had an incredibly high usage for a player off the bench (28%) with slightly above average efficiency. The following season, the Heat brought Herro into the starting lineup, where his usage went down slightly, he played off the ball a little more and his efficiency increased. He moved back on the ball this season, and before the year, we bet him to average 20-plus and 22-plus PPG because young guards who score like that tend to keep it up.

The Heat's offense has generally been better when Herro is on the floor, and while he has been criticized for his defense, the overall effect in Miami has been about neutral.

The Bad: Jordan Poole

Poole was the favorite for Sixth Man of the Year coming into last season after a season in which he displayed incredible efficiency with the Warriors. Poole averaged 18.5 PPG in 2022, but the splits were 20.3 PPG as a starter and 13.7 as a reserve. In 2023, he fluctuated between being a starter and coming off the bench, and again was much better as a scorer in the starting lineup. His efficiency went down and his turnover rate went up.

With the trade to Washington, it was figured his scoring would go up. His usage has remained the same with the Wizards, but his efficiency has plummeted on a bad Wizards offense, and he is now a well below-average scorer.

The Warriors' offense was pretty good with Poole on the court in 2022, but they were much worse in 2023. And his defense is known to be terrible. There were signs it wouldn’t work as well in Washington, and that has certainly been true.

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The Great: Jalen Brunson

In the 2021 season, Jalen Brunson was 24 years old and in his third season, coming off the bench for the Mavericks. He finished the year fourth in Sixth Man of the Year voting. Brunson averaged 12.6 PPG on slightly above average usage (21.6%), but extremely high efficiency. When Jason Kidd was hired, he moved Brunson into the starting lineup, and his usage bumped up, his efficiency dropped slightly and he averaged 16.3 PPG.

Of course, Brunson left in free agency and signed with the Knicks, where his minutes, efficiency, and usage all jumped up while averaging 24 PPG. Brunson has been extremely productive in New York and helped keep the Knicks above water on offense when he is on the floor. In Dallas and New York, he has always made the offense better when he is on the floor, but his defensive impact hasn't been as high, especially as his usage came up.

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Immanuel Quickley

For Quickley, which one of these players presents the best comparison?

Going into this season, Quickley was one of the favorites for Sixth Man of the Year. Like Poole, he had large splits as a starter versus off the bench, averaging 22.6/5/5 as a starter, and only 12.3/3.7/2.9 off the bench. Quickley had excellent efficiency and a slightly above-average usage last season (21.5%), and he rarely turned the ball over.

Every season of Quickley's career, the Knicks have been at least 6.7 points per 100 possessions better than their opposition when he has been out there.

Like Brunson with Dallas, Quickley seems like a clear NBA starting point guard that has been mostly been stuck on the bench. Once Brunson got a chance with New York, his usage went up a ton and his efficiency remained stable.

Over the second half last season, as Quickley became more comfortable starting, he had some huge scoring outbursts. From February on, he started 13 games, averaging 24 PPG and scoring at least 22 points in nine of the 13 games. That was the same time he started moving up in Sixth Man of the Year odds — not because of his work off the bench but because of his great play as a starter.

Ultimately, I think Quickley's usage will settle in around 24% on the Raptors and he'll play with good efficiency and a low turnover rate. I expect him to average 20-22 points, 5-6 assists and 3-4 rebounds per game with Toronto. For comparison, Fred VanVleet averaged 19.3/7.2/3.6 with the Raptors last year.

For tonight against Sacramento, I'm betting the following:

Quickley over 17.5 points, -115, .4u (DK/PB)
Quickley 25+ points, +430, .2u (FD) – would bet down to 390 PB or 375 DK SGP
Quickley over 3.5 assists, -101, .25u (CZR)
Quickley over 4.5 assists, +190, .15u (ESPN)
Quickley over 24.5 pra, -115, .25u (PB)

I'd bet all of these down about 10-15 points. As mentioned above, I think Quickley's season averages on the Raptors settle above all of these base odds.

I also think the Raptors are going to be better than they were before the trade. Others have covered this, but O.G. Anunoby's skills were redundant with the other Raptors stars. Quickley brings elite shooting that was missing, as well as quick passing and a constant tenacity at all times.

The Raptors ultimately made this trade because Quickley is a starting NBA point guard. He is already one of the top 20 starting point guards in the NBA, and now given the chance, I expect him to thrive as the Raptors take a step forward.

I also don't think a Siakam trade is a lock. This team has been hesitant to make trades before, and this trade was made with an eye towards them being better this season. Siakam also had comments before the season that indicated a resistance to sign an extension with any team, and unlike Anunoby, it does not look imminent that he will be making a commitment somewhere else midseason.

At +390, I'd prefer for the Raptors' playoff odds to be longer. But for the play-in tournament in the Eastern Conference, they are one of a few teams right in the mix, and Caesar's lists them at +175. I think that's way too long. I'm betting .25u on the Raptors to make the play-in at Caesar's at +175, and I'd bet this down to +150.

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Nick Sterling
Apr 23, 2024 UTC