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Bucks Trade Candidate: Quentin Grimes

The Knicks are making Grimes available, could the Bucks get in on the action?

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at New York Knicks Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

For our next entry in our Bucks trade candidate series, we stick with athletic wings who can defend, meeting a need that many fans want them to address between now and the February 8th trade deadline. We first looked at Kris Dunn, then Matisse Thybulle, and now we go to the youngest, perhaps most intriguing name yet. Someone who was first rumored as discontent with his role, prompting speculation from Bucks fans, but more recently seems to be actually available: the New York Knicks’ Quentin Grimes.

The Player

Quentin Grimes, 23, 6’5”, 205 lb., shooting guard

Season averages: 6.9 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG, .405/.392/.625

Grimes has been one of the most interesting young faces on the resurgent, competent Knicks of recent seasons since going 25th overall out of Houston in the 2021 draft. He outlasted Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, Cam Reddish, and RJ Barrett in the Big Apple, which might lead one to believe that the Knicks like him (and the recently extended Miles McBride) the most out of that youthful corps.

However, before sending Quickley and Barrett to Toronto in the OG Anunoby deal, Grimes expressed dissatisfaction with his reduced offensive role last month. This makes some sense: after starting 66 of 71 games last year and averaging just under 30 minutes per game, he’s started in less than half of his 37 appearances this season, plus his offensive numbers have fallen across the board with about ten fewer minutes in each contest. His defensive metrics have held steady, though. Old friend Donte DiVincenzo usurped him in the starting lineup around the time of his grievance-airing and last year’s deadline acquisition Josh Hart sees most of the backup minutes at the 2 and 3, where Grimes fits best.

Though Grimes saw a slight bump in playing time—and put up two of his best scoring performances—after the Anunoby trade shipped out two competitors for rotation minutes and cleared out the wing logjam, he’s now down to around fourteen minutes per night, fewer than he saw in the weeks leading up to his statement to the New York Post. It seemed like he might have been getting comfortable in the second unit too, with a nice stretch in the trade’s aftermath, but even in Jalen Brunson’s recent absence and with Hart’s recent struggles, Tom Thibodeau has leaned heavily on his starters. Grimes’ role is even smaller than it was a month ago.

So perhaps it wasn’t surprising to hear that the Knicks have been “actively fielding offers” on Grimes recently, only a couple of weeks after it looked like he was primed to reassume a bigger role. After extending McBride, who is filling in for Brunson as New York’s starting point guard, Grimes is very clearly the one remaining young piece that GM Leon Rose could shop.

But just because he might have fallen out of Thibs’ rotation, the 23-year-old (24 in May) still seems likely to have a future in the league, especially as a perimeter stopper. Not long ago, Thibs reportedly refused to include him in Donovan Mitchell talks because he liked him that much, so Grimes was well-regarded until recently. Last year, he was one of the Knicks’ most versatile perimeter defenders, with his 6’8” wingspan meriting assignments on all flavors of wings and even point guards like Trae Young or forwards like Pascal Siakam. It’s not as if those were the only featured scorers he was guarding either, as Thibs often asked him to check the best players on opposing teams.

He also found success on opposing stars in the playoffs. When Grimes was the primary defender on Donovan Mitchell in last spring’s first round, he held the Cavs star to 27% shooting, and when on Jimmy Butler in the next round, held him to 31%. Speaking of Butler, Grimes also compared very favorably to a certain recent Buck perimeter stopper in isolation: allowing just 0.72 points per possession and a 31.4% FG% in 2022–23 compared to Jrue Holiday’s 0.86 PPP and 45.2%.

The defensive chops are there, but New York isn’t using them as much this year, preferring what DiVincenzo brings as a stopper (and scorer). However, despite what Grimes thinks, some numbers suggest his offensive role hasn’t changed that much since his quasi-breakout last year. His 14.2% usage is down just 0.2% from a season ago, he’s actually averaging 0.7 more shots per 36 minutes, and his three-point attempt rate is up nearly 10%. Not coincidentally, 10% fewer of his shots are at the rim, but his 74.5% conversion rate there last year is down a full 20% in 2023–24. He still remains a very good shooter from deep on pretty high volume, though.

The Trade

For years now, it seems like the Knicks have been in rumors for stars on the trade market (and even some who aren’t on it yet) while they’ve acquired plenty of first-round picks, and didn’t surrender any of them in the Anunoby deal. Though The Athletic’s Fred Katz suggested in the article linked above that they’d prefer to add someone at the deadline who isn’t a free agent this summer and could be used in a hypothetical trade for a star, that star may be gettable now, and making this deal should still permit them a shot at a bigger name should the opportunity arise.

Former All-Star DeJounte Murray is widely reported as being available, now that Atlanta seems to have finally realized what many thought upon their trade for him eighteen months ago: the pairing of him and Trae Young doesn’t work. The Hawks sent out two first-round picks and a swap to acquire Murray so you can bet they’d like to have some back, and recent reporting suggests they are asking for two of them in return for Murray. Though several of the picks that the Knicks have acquired over the years are protected, they can keep their own this summer and send out the Mavs’, which is very likely to convey. That means they could still trade their 2025 first down the line without running into the Stepien rule.

Though Murray might not be the superstar that Knicks fans want, there’s no doubt he’d help them in the near and potentially long term. The extension Atlanta signed him to last offseason will kick in for 2024–25, but ranges from $25.5m–31.6m over the ensuing four seasons. With the cap continuing to rise, that’s far below a max salary and could come in handy in a trade for someone making more at some point.

But Murray fits their current needs pretty well. Katz states that New York wants another ballhandler who can run the offense when Brunson sits or even share the backcourt with him. While a Brunson-Murray guard tandem may not be any better than Young-Murray ended up, the Knicks will at least replace Grimes’ defense with someone who’s long been well-regarded on that end.

Murray probably would not come off the bench in New York, but since trading away Quickley, their offensive rating has fallen by 21 points per 100 possessions when Brunson sits, so their second unit very much needs the help. Though he’s always been more of a combo guard, Murray averaged 9.2 assists per game during his last year in San Antonio and 6.1 APG last season against 2.6 and 2.1 turnovers per game, respectively. Atlanta’s offense has only scored 0.6 fewer points per 100 possessions this year when he sits. He’s also shooting a career-best 38.6% from three this year on 6.1 attempts per game, and his .467/.386/.821 line is giving him a career-best 56.3% true shooting. Not bad for a 20.8 PPG scorer.

All told, while there might be better fits from an offensive perspective with lesser players like Malcolm Brogdon or Collin Sexton, the Knicks might not have a better chance at a star now or later, and acquiring Murray gives them the flexibility to keep or shop him should a star present himself. It will cost them a redundant player, Evan Fournier’s essentially expiring salary (2024–25 is a team option which is a lock to be declined), and two of their several tradeable first-round picks, but won’t leave their draft coffers empty. They also get a veteran defender for their bench in Matthews, since Atlanta needs to open a roster spot for their return.

The Hawks get to undo their failed experiment by somewhat recouping the draft assets they sent out and getting out from under the extension they gave Murray last summer by virtue of Fournier’s option. They also get Beauchamp and his upside (whether it exists or not), a lottery ticket in Livingston, and a second-rounder that should end up at least in the mid-thirties. They’ll be hoping that New York’s contention window is closed by 2027 and that pick ends up in a nice spot, especially if it’s unprotected.

In giving up Beauchamp, the Bucks could actually be selling high. Though the Hawks have liked Grimes in the past too, we have a clearer idea of what he is as an NBA player, despite being in the league just one more year than Beauchamp. As the Bucks’ only first-round pick in recent seasons, fans like to dream on MJB’s potential as a future starter (or maybe even something more exciting) or at least a quality rotation player. Though he’s been in and out of the rotation (and is currently out), there still exists a chance he meets some of those expectations, despite the inconsistent evidence we’ve seen that suggests those outcomes. As a second-year player, we just don’t know what he is yet, but that can work in Milwaukee’s favor by dealing him now.

This summer, after his second full season in the league, we could have a better idea of whether Beauchamp profiles as a quality contributor—on any team—or someone who can’t hang in the league. Right now, the safe money is on an outcome closer to the latter than the former, but that’s no sure thing. Moreover, if he’s still on the outskirts of Milwaukee’s rotation next season, his value will be much lower. If he can be used to acquire a more proven NBA player right now, especially one who fits the Bucks’ needs, GM Jon Horst should absolutely do so. Put another way, if MarJon Beauchamp develops into Quentin Grimes, that would count as a success. That might not sound like a huge if, but there’s a solid chance he never gets there. Meanwhile, Quentin Grimes is Quentin Grimes.

Last, the Bucks would open up a roster spot for buyout season (or even another trade, if this were to happen enough in advance of the deadline) by moving on from both Beauchamp and Livingston while taking only Grimes back. We heard a few weeks ago that Milwaukee still likes old friend P.J. Tucker, and while a trade might not be a good reunion option, rumors continue to link him with the Bucks, with the latest suggesting that the 414 would be a possible home for him if he reached free agency at some point.

The Fit

Being similar in size and a little less defensively active than DiVincenzo, while less muscular than Hart, Grimes is redundant on the Knicks, but wouldn’t be on the Bucks. He’d instantly become one of the two best defenders Milwaukee has outside of its frontcourt, and perhaps the best depending on how you feel about Andre Jackson Jr. Some are understandably wary of depending on a rookie for important defensive minutes in a postseason rotation, and while Grimes had a rough postseason from a shooting perspective last year, he still saw action in all but two of New York’s eleven playoff games last year and started six of them. That experience edge could allay concerns about AJax, and Grimes’ body of defensive work last season makes him look the part of a key playoff contributor.

Though he may not enjoy the same offensive freedom in Milwaukee as he did during his sophomore campaign if he’s entrusted with a late-game role, sees closer to 30 MPG, or starts over Malik Beasley, he probably wouldn’t be a malcontent. As a true three-and-D guy as opposed to Beasley’s three-and-nothing-else profile, Grimes would likely see a healthy diet of quality looks from downtown as a Buck, much like Beasley has. In New York, 61.6% of Grimes’ three-point looks have been open (with the nearest defender at least four feet away) compared to 59.5% of Beasley’s. Grimes’ 3PA/36 is actually slightly higher than Beasley’s, so the Bucks would still benefit from having an unbashful gunner on the floor alongside their stars that are more commanding of defensive attention.

Grimes is also eligible for a rookie-scale extension this offseason, but would still have one more year of team control at a comparatively small $4.3m before becoming a restricted free agent in the summer of 2025. Either at that point or this summer, Milwaukee could ink him to the type of mid-level deal over four years (give or take) and between $10–20m per year that could prove a reasonable price for a lower-usage fifth starter who still has some upside, or be useful to match salaries in a trade down the line.

Critically, Grimes would provide Milwaukee with the kind of youth and athleticism many fans rightly feel is sorely lacking from the current rotation (aside from AJJ) and would represent a future building block. Though he doesn’t possess De’Aaron Fox-level blinding speed, he still has the quickness to blow by closeouts. When that’s viewed alongside his numbers at the rim last year, it hints at some further offensive upside. His jumper needs to be respected behind the arc, so the secondary shot creation resulting from his drives could eventually be another wrinkle in the Bucks’ offense, especially once the current core around Giannis Antetokounmpo ages out. While it’s probably unrealistic to view him as a future All-Star next to Giannis once Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton are gone, he could at least be a high-level role player and quality starter on those future Milwaukee squads. He already may merit a starting role on today’s Bucks, and certainly a rotation spot.

More trade candidates are ahead, but what say you to this proposal? Do you think one of these teams balks at their incoming or outgoing package? How do you feel about Grimes? Take to the comments below with your thoughts.