When Kyle O’Quinn signed his contract for a veteran’s minimum $2.1 million this offseason, it did not come with high expectations. The 29-year-old journeyman has never averaged more than 7.1 points per game nor has he started more than a handful of games. This year, O’Quinn averaged 10.6 minutes per game totaling 3.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. While it may have seemed unlikely that O’Quinn would get much time on the court with the playoffs ahead, he may be the necessary spark that the Sixers are missing.
Finding a spark
The relationship between the Sixers and O’Quinn was nearing disaster earlier in the year. With the emergence of Norvelle Pelle along with Joel Embiid and Al Horford, O’Quinn found himself buried in the depth chart and grew frustrated. At one point, he was put under scrutiny for liking an anti-Brett Brown post from Trey Burke’s father that lobbied for Burke to be traded. In February, O’Quinn even requested to be released by the Sixers. Luckily, he has stuck it through and found a way to make a positive impact on the team.
Throughout the turmoil this year, O’Quinn has not allowed it to impact his attitude. Amid the release request, Brett Brown was asked about KOQ and spoke very highly of him saying, “…he’s a great teammate. you look at a veteran player that’s trying to find a role and he hasn’t really come in and played that much… and he still is a personality and a spirit in a locker room, on a plane, on a bus. I think he’s incredible, really. I love him on this team, I love him in the locker room.” Despite limited minutes, O’Quinn has established himself as a leader on the team, especially in the time in Orlando. Along with Tobias Harris, O’Quinn has been at the forefront of spreading the Sixers social justice message to “Educate Yourself.”
With the Sixers locked in as the 6th seed and a match up with the Celtics ahead, Brett Brown has given more time on the court to the reserves in the past few games. Kyle O’Quinn has been one of the guys who has jumped on this opportunity. In the game against the Suns, KOQ was given 32 minutes of action and turned out a 9 point, 10 rebound, and 11 assist performance (highlights here). He also had a key block on Devin Booker in the 4th quarter. Most recently against the Rockets, he scored 6 points along with 5 assists and 6 rebounds in 17 minutes of action. He also recorded a +23 rating in the game.
An underrated ability
What has been most impressive about O’Quinn’s recent performances has been his passing ability. There are few big men who have the vision and ability to see plays develop that O’Quinn has flashed. While his chemistry with Matisse Thybulle has been clear in the Vlogs, it also has become evident that the chemistry translates on the court. The pair have linked up on back cuts and give-and-go’s several times in the past few games which have led to many easy dunks for the rookie.
It is also extremely notable to see the way that O’Quinn has distributed the ball. O’Quinn appears extremely comfortable posting up at the elbow, allowing for off-ball movement and finding the open man. This seemed eerily similar to the role that was envisioned for Ben Simmons as the PF in the redesigned Sixers offense. While O’Quinn may not be the same quality of player as Simmons, he may be able to fill this role on the court. In the Suns game, 10 out of KOQ’s 11 assists came from the elbow or near the 3-point line and he was able to find cutters and spot movement off-the-ball in a way that is not seen often on this team.
An expanded role?
The bench minutes will inevitably be cut with the playoffs approaching, but it may not be in the Sixers’ best interest to keep O’Quinn on the bench. While he should not be counted on for major minutes, bringing on a big man who is a topflight passer is a move that Brett Brown should keep in his arsenal. O’Quinn can play the Power Forward or Center position and spent time playing alongside both Norvelle Pelle and Mike Scott in these past games.
It is obviously situational and depends on matchup, but subbing in a lineup with Kyle O’Quinn, Mike Scott, and Matisse Thybulle could be a change of pace that could make an immediate impact. Whether it is being a voice in the locker room, bringing energy from the bench, or making the most of his minutes on the court, expect Kyle O’Quinn to make an impact on the Sixers with the playoffs ahead.
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