Kentucky coach John Calipari could not contain his glee that his buddies, Knicks president Leon Rose and senior VP William Wesley, drafted one of his Kentucky guys – 6-3 combo guard Immanuel Quickley.
Calipari posted a jubilant video that should excite Knicks fans after Rose tabbed Quickley with the 25th pick in the draft Wednesday night.
Quickley, in most mock drafts, was slated as a second-round pick as the lesser-half of a backcourt with Tyrese Maxey, who dropped to the 76ers at No. 21.
As a sophomore, Quickley, 21, wasn’t even a starter to begin the season and wound up as SEC Player of The Year. He averaged 16.1 points and shot 42.8 percent from 3-point range. He said he played a lot of off the ball.
“A man didn’t start the first five games,” Calipari said on his Twitter feed. “I was trying to get a three-guard rotation. You know what? I was out of my mind. No, no, you’re a starter.”
And it worked, with Kentucky finishing the regular season at 15-3 in the conference before the pandemic cancelled out the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
“We win the league by three games and he’s a player of the year in our league,” Calipari said. “He’ll stretch the court. He’s culture, faith-driven. This kid is going to get so much better. He can play on the ball, off the ball. The Knicks got something. The Kniiiiiiiicks got something. I can’t wait to watch him play.”
Get used to Calipari’s guys heading to the Garden. Rose and Wesley, as agents, were deeply embedded into the Kentucky program and regard Calipari’s words as gospel. Wesley pushed to hire Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne for Tom Thibodeau’s staff.
The Knicks will have three former Kentucky players on the roster (Julius Randle and Kevin Knox) and possibly a fourth if they sign on-the-radar small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Indeed, the Knicks have become the “Orange and Bluegrass.”
“It’s a good pick,” one NBA scout said. “He gets to the line a lot (92.3 percent FT percentage). He’s more scorer than shooter but can make 3s. He’s a little out of control at times. And it doesn’t hurt Kenny Payne is on the staff.”
The Knicks’ starting point-guard situation is still is up in the air. Free agency starts Friday night and Toronto’s Fred VanVleet is by far the best on the market, but the Knicks may have to dole out the max to get him, though they are one of the few teams with cap space.
The Knicks may prefer a Russell Westbrook trade despite the former MVP being 32 and having three years and $132.5 million left on his pact. Two other veteran point guards on their radar are DJ Augustin and Jeff Teague, both of whom have played for Thibodeau.
The only mystifying part of the successful night that netted Player of the Year Obi Toppin in the lottery was the final of their three draft-swap trades.
The Knicks traded their recently obtained 33rd pick to the Clippers for a 2023 second-round draft pick. That is the year high-school players are eligible but usually the early second round is golden because it’s getting a first-round talent for minimum wage.
It shows how difficult teams view integrating the rookie class with no summer league or pre-camp scrimmages and perhaps no G League season. Training camp begins Dec. 1.
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