Pistons Season Rewind: Pistons fans didn’t glimpse the real Quentin Grimes

Pistons fans got a pretty good snap shot of Simone Fontecchio through the 16 games he played for them after being acquired at the February trade deadline and before a toe injury ended his season in mid-March. They didn’t see nearly as much of the other significant young veteran picked up at that time – and what they did see of Quentin Grimes wasn’t close to an accurate depiction of the player the Pistons believe they’ve added.

At his best, Grimes – who just turned 24 last week – gives the Pistons a high-level 3-and-D player who exudes toughness and selflessness. There isn’t a better testament to Grimes’ embodiment of those traits than the fact he quickly earned the trust of Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who elevated Grimes to New York’s starting lineup as a 22-year-old in his second NBA season for a playoff team.

When the Pistons were doing their due diligence on Marcus Sasser ahead of the 2023 NBA draft, his college coach at the University of Houston, Kelvin Sampson, told them that Sasser had the strongest work ethic of any of his past players there except one – Grimes.

Grimes only played a handful of games with the Pistons – after he was the key return in a deal that shipped veteran scorers Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks to New York – due to a knee sprain incurred while still with the Knicks in late January. But on a roster where the Pistons are looking to stock the wings with strong shooters and defenders to play off of Cade Cunningham, Grimes figures to arrive at training camp with every opportunity to lock down a key role.

Here’s a look at Grimes’ past, present and future:

PROFILE: 6-foot-5 guard, 24 years old, 3 NBA seasons

STATUS: Grimes is entering the fourth and final season of his rookie scale contract and, as such, is eligible to sign an extension over the summer. If no contract extension is agreed upon, Grimes would become a restricted free agent in July 2025.

2023-24 STATS: 7.0 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists in 20 minutes per game over 51 games while shooting .338 from the 3-point arc on 4.7 attempts per game

DID YOU KNOW? Grimes is one of three Pistons guards who came through the ranks at roughly the same time in Texas along with Cade Cunningham and Marcus Sasser. Grimes was a five-star recruit, the No. 8 prospect in the high school class of 2018 according to the recruiting service consensus index. He chose Kansas over offers from the usual smorgasbord of marquee programs after visiting Kentucky, Marquette, Oklahoma and Texas. Grimes had a splashy college debut, scoring 21 points and hitting 6 of 10 from the 3-point arc, to lead No. 1 Kansas to a 92-87 win over Michigan State in the Champions Classic. After starting all 36 games as a freshman at Kansas, Grimes went through the NBA draft process but pulled out before the deadline. With a scholarship squeeze on at Kansas, Grimes transferred near his hometown, to Houston, for the 2019-20 season. Grimes spent two seasons at Houston, overlapping Sasser’s time with the Cougars for both years, before declaring for the 2021 NBA draft. Grimes led Houston in scoring as a junior at 17.8 points a game for a team that reached the Final Four, losing to eventual champion Baylor in the national semifinal. Grimes was second on the team in rebounding (5.7 per game) and tied Sasser to lead in steals at 1.4 per game.

A LOOK BACK: Grimes was the 25th pick in the 2021 NBA draft and spent the first 2½ seasons with the New York Knicks. He started six of 46 games as a rookie but 66 of 71 games in his second season for a Tom Thibodeau-coached Knicks team that went 47-35 and earned the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Grimes played 30 minutes a game and averaged 11.3 points while doing most of his scoring from the 3-point arc with 68 percent of Grimes’ shot attempts coming from the arc. After his second season, Grimes was invited to USA Basketball’s summer session in Las Vegas as part of the Select Team, a showcase for some of the game’s best young players and a grooming for potential future inclusion on USA Basketball rosters. Among Grimes’ Select Team teammates: Cade Cunningham and Jalen Duren.

THE SEASON THAT WAS: Grimes’ third season saw him battle injury and a shooting slump and be replaced in New York’s starting lineup after 18 games when he was dealing with a hand injury. The Knicks’ major off-season acquisition, Donte DiVincenzo, eventually usurped Grimes’ role on the wing next to star point guard Jalen Brunson. Grimes was still shooting at league average from the 3-point arc (.363) while with the Knicks this season, but when the Pistons made veteran shooters Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks available, the Pistons swung a deal – adding two future second-round picks, as well – to bring Grimes into the fold. Grimes had suffered a knee injury in late January while with the Knicks – identified as a subluxation, or a partial dislocation of the kneecap – that affected his limited play with the Pistons and ultimately led to the decision to shut him down with muscle soreness related to the knee injury. Grimes appeared in only six games with the Pistons and clearly was still limited by the injury, hitting 4 of 28 from the 3-point arc. Grimes made his Pistons debut in late February and played four consecutive games before sitting out the next four, then returned for two mid-March games before it was determined it was best to shut down and prepare for a full-go off-season.

A LOOK AHEAD: While it is likely to be an active off-season for the Pistons on the personnel front with the No. 5 pick in the draft and $60 million-plus in cap space, Grimes is in position to be a prominent rotation fixture given his size, defensive capability and 3-point threat. Grimes’ 6-foot-8 wingspan and strength wrapped up in a defensive demeanor make him an extremely switchable defender capable of guarding four positions. Grimes’ 3-point shooting after joining the Pistons was an aberration; he’s a 37.1 percent career 3-point shooter even with year three compromised by injury and a shooting slump. Grimes could profile as a starter given his skill set, but also could help anchor the second unit for the same reasons. With the Pistons’ front office in transition, it will be worth noting whether Grimes is offered a contract extension or if he goes into next season on the final year of his rookie deal. That would mean restricted free agency, which still would have the Pistons in control of Grimes’ destiny.

MONEY QUOTE: “If you’re a shooter and you miss shots, it is what it is. I was dealing with the injury, so I knew what it was. You can do other things to impact winning if you’re not making shots – rebounding, be talking to teammates, passing the ball and making the right play. You can do a million other things to help win the game. That’s the most important thing going into every game. Even if it’s not pretty, a win is a win at the end of the day. Coming from (University of Houston coach Kelvin) Sampson, he doesn’t care. Do what you do to help win the game.” – Quentin Grimes after the season ended