The New York Knicks powered past the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, but without two of their young productive pieces, the cards might have fallen a different way. While the starters stepped up in this contest, with Julius Randle producing 20 points and Evan Fournier contributing 26, the bench scored a combined 38 points.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau utilizes more bench pieces than not, but only three players earned action in the win: Obi Toppin, Alec Burks, and Immanuel Quickley. Burks contributed a healthy 12 points, three assists, and six rebounds, but the team’s two draft picks from 2020 stepped up in a big way.

Toppin has been a far different version of himself this season, showcasing better rebounding, physicality, positioning, and scoring production. He added 12 points and four rebounds in the win over 22 minutes. So far this season, Toppin is averaging 7.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, and is shooting 55.6% from the field over 15 minutes per game.

Toppin’s transition scoring abilities have increased his value to the team, contributing electrifying moments that bring energy. His chemistry with fellow sophomore Immanuel Quickley has proved to be beneficial.

Quickley, on the other hand, scored 14 points and picked up three assists in the win. However, the sharpshooter out of Kentucky has been on a tear lately, posting double-digit points in four of his last five games. He is averaging 8.6 points, 2.1 assists, and is shooting 39% from the field and 36.1% from three-point range this season over 18.2 minutes per game.

In fact, Immanuel is shooting 52.52% from deep during that span of games, posting a high of 16 points (he hit every 3-PT attempt against the Pacers last Monday).

Some might say there is a case to be made that Quickley should be earning starting point guard minutes after utilizing the Summer League and off-season to refine specific parts of his game. His decisiveness and shot development have stood out in the month of November. His agility as a ball-handler and ability to hit shots from different angles and balances has elevated him under Thibodeau.

The development of both Toppin and Quickley is a beautiful sight, as they have become legitimate role players on a team that has relied on the second unit heavily this season. When the starters are failing to contribute, they have stepped up in a big way, leading the team and showcasing they are capable of matching opposing team’s scoring production.

This article first appeared on Empire Sports Media and was syndicated with permission.

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