Quincy Acy has been around. A rookie year and change in Toronto. Two stints as a fan favorite in Sacramento, wrapped around a year with the Knicks. A homecoming in Dallas with the Mavericks before arriving in Brooklyn just over a year ago.
His month with the Mavericks at the start of the 2016-17 season included just six games played, but the shortest stint of Acy’s NBA career may have been the most impactful for him.
He had carved out his place in the NBA over the previous four seasons as a grinder, an undersized power forward at 6-foot-7 who had survived on work ethic and determination.
For a guy known for doing the dirty work in the paint, there wasn’t a lot of encouragement to expand his game beyond the arc and start firing away from 3-point range. Even as the NBA’s emphasis on 3-point shooting grew every year, Acy had never even averaged one attempt per game before he got to Dallas. But when he arrived, he found that coach Rick Carlisle already knew his shooting percentages from different spots on the floor. And he liked what he saw.
“He would pull me after practice every day, and he would work on me, 30 minutes to an hour, just me and him, just shooting,” said Acy. “Getting my form. Getting my feet and my base, everything right. He took a ball, put my hand on the ball, asked one of the ballboys, yelled at him, ‘get me a permanent marker.’ He drew my hand on the ball. And every time I shot, he wanted my hand to be right there on that print, to shoot the ball.
“Other guys were kind of laughing at me. But I’ve still got that ball in my house right now, because it’s a reminder. He believed in me.”
Even after the injury-stricken Mavs let him go in November 2016 to make room for a needed point guard on the roster, they continued to support Acy’s reinvention. He signed with the franchise’s G League team, the Texas Legends. That allowed him to stay active, and stay in his Dallas home. Carlisle would check in with Legends coach Bob MacKinnon, who continued to encourage Acy as well.
It was Acy’s first time in the G League since a handful of games as a rookie. He was determined not to stay very long.
“They have the talent some people, but they don’t have that next step that takes them over the edge to put them up here,” said Acy. “That’s why I tried to separate myself, tried to be a leader, tried to get guys to join me. I would shoot every time, no matter what, any chance I had to do some extra shooting, I was there. Days off, I was in the gym. It didn’t matter what. If we had an option for shootaround, sometimes I’d be the only one there.”
By the time Acy arrived in Brooklyn after 12 games with the Legends, he was already a different player than the Nets thought they were getting.
Kenny Atkinson had always been a fan. During his days as an assistant coach in Atlanta, the Knicks were one of his scouting assignments. Acy’s aggressiveness jumped out at him.
“I watched him play a ton,” said Atkinson. “His big thing is how competitive he was, how much energy he had. So when (general manager) Sean (Marks) mentioned the idea of bringing him in, I was all in. What we didn’t realize is how well he shot the ball.”
Acy joined the Nets in January of last season, played through a pair of 10-day contracts, then signed a multi-year deal at the end of the month. In 32 games, his newfound shooting prowess was on display, as he connected from 3-point range at a scorching 43.4 percent.
With that, Acy has emerged as one of the NBA’s most unlikely prolific 3-point shooters. Through the end of January, he was averaging 7.6 3-point attempts per-36 minutes, the fourth highest in the league among forwards and one of the top 20 highest rates in the league.
Acy is part of one of the Nets’ most productive heavy-usage offensive lineups, teaming with DeMarre Carroll, Allen Crabbe, Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson for an offensive rating of 113.3. The league-leading Golden State Warriors have an overall offensive rating of 113.6. His shooting range helps pull bigger defenders away from the paint and open up driving lanes for his teammates.
“Our offense is better with him in the game,” said Atkinson. “I do think, not that Q’s a bad defender, but we do take a hit defensively because we don’t have the size that we have with the big guys. But I think offensively it just gives us more space out there.”
The growth in his skills hasn’t changed Acy’s approach to the game. In his heart, he’s still the kid at the end of the bench as a high school freshman who fought his way to a varsity starting spot as a sophomore. That’s the way he’s attacked his NBA career as well.
“I have always had to fight for my minutes and for my position,” said Acy. “It’s never been anything new to me. I know that regardless I’m going to have to stay in the gym, do what I did to get me here, and keep fighting. When I started out, it was no different. I knew I was shorter, not as big, I knew I wasn’t as skilled, but you weren’t going to outwork me. That’s what I still live by today. As long as I keep working hard, I think there will always be a spot for me.”