Kyle O'Quinn was part of Phil Jackson's first wave of free agent signings in the summer of 2015, signing a four year deal worth $16 million.
Having not averaged more than 18 minutes per game in his first three seasons with the Magic, this acquisition was all about O'Quinn's potential. He wasn't considered overpaid, but the deal signed included some risk, as it required somewhat of a long-term investment.
Despite making a relatively big splash in free agency, the 2015-16 season certainly did not go as planned. As such, previous acquisitions like Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, Derrick Williams, and others were either moved or not retained.
While he was criticized for being out of shape and quickly fell out of favor in Derek Fisher's rotation, O'Quinn remained. Given his challenge to find consistent minutes, one could have believed his contract was difficult to move. The Knicks were stuck with him and it represented another poor decision by Jackson.
Taking advantage of the revitalized opportunity he has been given in head coach Jeff Hornacek's rotation, O'Quinn has wasted no time debunking that theory. Instead, he's quickly risen up as one of the NBA's most productive reserve big men.
All the while, Joakim Noah's battle to become a more consistent performer has given way to O'Quinn stepping up in a big way. The strides he's made have sparked a debate as to whether or not he should be starting and/or playing more than Noah, who signed a $70 million contract this past summer.
In the midst of his best campaign as a pro, O'Quinn has tallied five double-doubles this season. His ability to flirt with such an accomplishment seems like an automatic occurrence when given substantial minutes.
He's scored in double-figures nine times and has grabbed seven or more rebounds fourteen times. Per 36 minutes, he's averaging 13.3 boards as well. And the Knicks are 4-0 with him as a starter. The energy he brings often sparks an increased effort from teammates, as a player like him helps set the tone.
O'Quinn has been an absolute revelation, even more so because the Knicks have craved a stronger inside presence at times this season. He's physical, agile, and is in seemingly much better shape than he was last season. He's proven to be reliable, and Hornacek has made sure to utilize his talents.
The Knicks have, thus far, fallen short of expectations this season. Jackson's attempt to right the ship has been heavily criticized. When evaluating his eye for talent, however, he should be given credit for finding O'Quinn.
Still somewhat of a youngster, O'Quinn has a chance to play a role in the future. A homegrown talent out of Queens, he's easy to root for and has quickly flourished into an asset. With the booming NBA economy, O'Quinn has proven himself to be a bargain.
Depending on what happens these next few weeks, the Knicks will need to make decisions about their future. At the very least, O'Quinn will have increased his trade value tremendously. On the other hand, his contributions and affordable rate should signal that he can provide value on the court in any situation. Jackson has found a keeper.