At first glance, Wednesday’s trade between the New York Knicks and Sacramento Kings—Jeremy Tyler and Wayne Ellington for Quincy Acy and Travis Outlaw, per USA Today’s Sam Amick—is about as lateral as it gets, the four principals being either on non-guaranteed contracts or with salaries that would come off the book next summer.
But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the early days of Phil Jackson’s tenure, it’s that no move, no matter how seemingly small, is without its greater motivation.
For the Knicks, the prize—if he can be called that—is most surely the 23-year-old Acy.
So what, exactly, can the high-energy small forward bring to the table this season?
In his four years at Baylor University, Acy earned a reputation for being a player whose passion far outstripped his skill set. And while his per-36 minute production over two NBA seasons is certainly solid, his toll on the Knicks—much like at was in Waco—promises to be more emotional than statistical.
That’s not to say the move was completely lacking in strategy. Having only guaranteed Acy through the 2014-15 season, New York won’t be compromising its financial flexibility heading into next summer’s crucial free-agency period.
More immediately, Acy and Outlaw give the Knicks backup options for Carmelo Anthony that—while by no means world-beaters—arrive as much more proven products than the team’s current second option, rookie Cleanthony Early.
#Knicks move all about depth chart. Acy provides defense/energy depth at PF. Outlaw 3PT shooting.— Alan Hahn (@alanhahn) August 6, 2014
The question now becomes how Acy stands to fit into Derek Fisher’s triangle-inspired offense.
A quick glance at the numbers certainly isn’t encouraging:
In a system predicated on precise spacing, passing and movement, it’s hard to see how Acy—whose range of motion can be roughly measured in lane paint—will fit in Fisher’s plans.
Over at Posting and Toasting, the always entertaining Seth Rosenthal summarized with trademark economy what the whole thing means for New York:
This is a quick and severely inexpert appraisal, but I think the Knicks just got very slightly better on defense and slightly worse at playing Triangle offense. And they got a very fun player in Acy and a no-fun player in Outlaw while giving up an unfamiliar guy in Ellington and a guy whose novelty had worn off in Tyler. And they lost a little sliver of toehold in a future draft if they happen to suck in two years.
“Very fun” might not be measured in numbers, but for a team determined to reignite Madison Square Garden’s more boisterous voices, Acy’s brand of basketball bombast can’t be discounted.
Like the similarly silhouetted Reggie Evans, Acy is the quintessential “energy guy”—a tireless pest who will rest at nothing to chase down a crowd-bound ball or stick an elbow in your ribs to give himself better position.
@_Verts you'll love him— Greg Wissinger (@gwiss) August 6, 2014
For a fanbase that even today treats the likes of Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason as veritable deities, having a player of Acy’s stock is sure to rouse the rabble.
At a little over $900,000 for one year, that’s upside more than worth the risk.
During his inaugural press conference back on March 18, Jackson underscored what he believed to be a goal of paramount importance: Restoring New York’s reputation as a paragon of team basketball:
"We want to build a team," Jackson Said. "Team doesn’t have an ‘I’ in it. We’ve used that expression a few times as coaches…The idea of developing a culture is an overwrought word in the NBA right now. But that’s the cachet that brought me here, I think."
Acy will never be a career 20-and-10 player. His name will not grace the back of an All-Star jersey, and his number will never find a permanent home in an arena rafter. As things stand today, there’s no guarantee Acy will have an NBA home come the season after next.
What Acy represents, in however microcosmic a scale, is New York’s transformation—slow and occasionally lateral though it might be—back to not just relevance, but genuine respectability.
So much of the NBA’s summer dog days are about making the perfect splash. There's nothing perfect or especially flashy about Quincy Acy. But that's not going to stop him from attempting the biggest on-court cannonballs possible.