Hey rookie, welcome to the NBA. Sure, starting against Denver was probably a big moment but Tyrese Maxey wasn’t a real NBA player until his name was in trade talks for a week straight. Now that he’s survived the week-long James Harden onslaught, we can focus on how he’s played so far. To be quite honest, I was shocked to see Maxey fall into the ’20s. I had him at 11 on my board so to see a solid, sure-fire lottery talent in my eyes fall was surprising. So far, I think it’s pretty safe to say Maxey has proved his biggest fans right early in the league. Since that Denver start, he’s averaging almost 20 a game and is shooting just under 50 per cent from the field. What’s impressed me most though is that he’s doing it largely on his own accord. Just 39 per cent of his twos are assisted, meaning he’s creating a ton for himself and in shooting 54 per cent from two, is excelling. His beautiful floater has translated as expected as has his craftiness around the basket. What’s concerned most is his three-point shot which was an issue last year at Kentucky as well. Right now Maxey is shooting just 27.8 per cent from three on almost three attempts a game. If he really wants to prove his pre-draft detractors wrong, that number going up for a player of his size and skill set is non-negotiable. As of now though, just 14 games in, to see the best parts of his game translating is what really matters. The jumper should come eventually but what I really care about early is seeing if rookies can do something well and Maxey has shown his two-point shot creation is just that. Not having Harden is disappointing for Sixers fans but hey, at least they can take solace in the potential shot-creating star they snagged at 21.
The number two pick in the draft has really impressed me so far. With how his college career ended and the fact he left Memphis even though he could’ve come back after the suspension, I had serious questions about how much he loved the game. From all reports from the Warriors though, this kid loves the game and is extremely coachable and if that is true, the NBA should be frightened. Sure, his defensive rotations leave a lot to be desired, his fouling is an issue and at times he feels a little lost offensively but guess what, all of that is learnable with reps and experience. What isn’t is the freakish athletic ability this dude has. He’s the kind of athlete who when you watch with someone who doesn’t know who he is, they marvel at everything from his size, explosiveness and of course age. At least three times a game, he does something where you just think, yeah there’s about three guys in the league who can do that. Now, to get on par with those guys as players instead of just as talents requires consistency and maturity, something that’ll come in this organization. It’s important to remember that unlike other rookies who are late on rotations, most played full college schedules. Wiseman on the other hand effectively didn’t play competitive basketball for over a year because of the pandemic and him leaving college. Think about this, including college, he’s played 16 games since high school (13 of which are in the NBA). He’s going to make mistakes, that’s okay and expected for a 19-year-old big man. What needs to be emphasized is the consistent flashes of freakdom because so few in this league have that in their bag. The mental stuff will come eventually but right now, let’s celebrate a young man with a level of talent that is unique.
The Knicks deserved this, am I right? It’s been a long line of misses in the lottery, poor management and just general incompetence to get here. But finally, FINALLY, it seems like they are the team that pulled a fast one on the others and stole a really good player. Before the Mitchell Robinson hive comes after me, I put Quickley in a different category because Robinson felt like dumb luck whereas this one feels like they actually found a guy no one else believed in. The best part about Quickley though isn’t just that he’s good. It’s that he plays with a joy and freedom for the Knicks that hasn’t really been seen at the Garden since what, JR Smith or Jamal Crawford? His confidence in his jumper at times borders on arrogance but that’s the type of character you often have to have to thrive as a rookie in the NBA. I love seeing him go one for 10 one night and then literally the next game take 15 shots. That type of new night mentality is a key to success in this league. Especially early on, some nights are going to suck. What matters though is finding a way to push through those and continue to refine and improve your game. In his fourth through seventh game, he shot EIGHT per cent from the field. Most would think a stretch like that would kill any early-season momentum he had built in the preseason and the first three games right? Wrong. Quickley in the four games since is scoring 17.5 a game on 50 per cent from the field and 45 per cent from three on almost five attempts from behind the arc a game. Persistence like that in the face of adversity is what I look for in rookies because there’s going to be a lot. I’m not sure if Quickley will be more than a fun rotational piece down the line but guess what keyword I used to describe him there? Fun. The Knicks have a fun player again and for a fanbase as beaten down as this one, you have to feel good for them for that.