The New York Knicks will have a top-10 NBA Draft pick this summer and they could use it on sensational international prospect Frank Ntilikina.As is always the case, or at least the majority of the time, the international draft entrants always insight fear or disappointment within fans mainly because they just do not know what they’re getting because they’ve never seen them play live before. The New York Knicks very own Kristaps Porzingis is a case in point.
However, in this technologically driven era, footage and vision are aplenty, and it is highly accessible. Therefore, there shouldn’t be a collective grown or boos on draft night. You can easily see and figure out what commodity your team will be picking and this will further assist you in understanding who exactly Frank Ntilikina is.
Frank Ntilikina is an 18-year-old, 6-foot-5-inch point guard who is a native of Belgium of Rwandan descent but was raised in France. The lengthy guard has been a representative of the French national team’s under 16 and 18 squads and has been the leader or star of those two teams. Ntilikina has been a professional basketball since the age of 16 and has just completed his third season with Strasbourg.
His European statistics will certainly not blow you away, but his performance at the 2016 FIBA under 18 World Championships as well as the 2016 Basketball without Borders camp was outstanding. Consequently, Ntilikina is widely expected to be taken in the lottery of the 2017 NBA Draft, and a majority of big boards have him going in the top-10.
So, what are the strengths and weakness of the French prospect, Frank Ntilikina?
The biggest strength Ntilikina has is his physical tools, which as they develop and fill out, so too will his game. He stands at 6-feet-5 and has a wingspan of almost 7-feet.
He has a great athletic ability as well as quickness, Ntilikina can get up and down the floor with ease and beat his opponents in doing so. The 18-year-old also has s surprisingly big tank for someone of his age, and he can just keep going and going like the energizer bunny.
The Belge native has also been described as a “true point guard” per NBADraft.net and has drawn comparisons to such NBA guards such as veteran point guard Jrue Holiday and rising star Dennis Schroeder. Ntilikina has a pass first mentality and always looks and hits the open man. According to Draft Express, he has a remarkable basketball IQ and ability to dictate the pace of the game for someone of his inexperience.
According to Draft Express, he has a remarkable basketball IQ and ability to dictate the pace of the game for someone of his inexperience.
He also excels on the break and in the open court due to his athletic ability which when combined with his passing make particularly hazardous in that situation. This also enhanced with his ability to handle the ball especially well for a sizeable guard and knack for being able from a standstill, on the move or while penetrating.
Moreover, in the half court, Ntilikina is an excellent pick-and-roll player as a result of his versatility. He has an explosive first step and when coupled with his length means he can quickly blow by opponents. The 18-year-old prospect has a solid pull-up jump shot and can also counter that with a floater. When he has the time to gather himself, Ntilikina is a great finisher at the rim which is namely due, as you’d expect, to his length and athletic ability.
A question surrounding the French prospect is his three-point shooting ability, but it shouldn’t be overly concerning at all. He has a steady shot that has acceptable form but as you’d expect will improve with the proper coaching at the next level.
In the 2016 under 18 world championships, Ntilikina shot a remarkable 58 percent from distance on four attempts per game. Further to this, he shot 47 percent in Europe last season on 1.5 attempts per game. He has shot high percentages in recent times, but it is understandable why people question it as it is only a small sample size.
Aside from the offensive end, the aspect where he has the most promise is on the defensive end. Ntilikina stands at 6 feet and 5 inches and has a seven-foot wingspan; he is extremely long and covers an incredible amount of space. NBADraft.net states that he has been able to defend both guard positions as well as the three spot.
Ntilikina moves very well laterally which means he’s able to stay in front of his man and commit silly blocking fouls on the perimeter. He has great anticipation, and his long reach helps him to intercept in the passing lanes as well as strip his opponent. Draft Express relays that he has great versatility on the defensive end and has high NBA upside on this side of the ball.
As was mentioned previously, Ntilikina is long, wiry and athletic. However, he lacks muscle, bulk, and strength which may harm him at NBA level. Due to his size, the Frenchman can defend the three spot, but that is mainly on the perimeter.
Scouting reports state that when defending forward, they regularly take him down low and bully him in the post. Aside from hurting him on the defensive end, Ntilikina struggles to deal with physical defense on the perimeter when he’s being pushed off his spot.
Moreover, due to his lack of core strength and overall bulk, the 18-year-old struggles to deal with and finish through contact at the bucket and, despite regularly getting to the tin, fails to convert due to his inability to take the contact and continue through it. Another offensive aspect that Ntilikina needs to improve upon is his jump shot consistency.
Draft Express states that far too often does his form, release point or use of legs change which impacts the consistency of his shot which was evident in his second year with Strasbourg where he only shot 30 percent from three point range.
Ntilikina is a quality defender, but there are still areas which require improvement. NBADraft.net states that the international prospect can often push too far beyond the three point line and as a result, he gets burnt frequently. As a result, Ntilikina relies on his length and reach to get back into the play and search for steals which sees him commit unnecessary reaching fouls. This was exemplified in his average of 2.1 fouls per game and 5.2 per 40 minutes. Another contributing factor to this is that Ntilikina can lose focus on the defensive end which isn’t uncommon for young players, heck the Knicks do it on a nightly basis!
An area which could consider somewhat of a weakness is that he can be too passive and look to pass too frequently. Both the routing reports of Draft Express and NBADraft.net say that Ntilikina needs to develop some aggressiveness in his game and take advantage of his strengths which include blowing by his opponents which will then create easier looks for his teammates as a result. It is also important that as s point guard you have a voice on the floor and the first propositions suggest that this is something Ntilikina lacks and needs to improve upon if he is to lead an NBA team.
Ntilikina, as previously mentioned, struggles with a physical game and could be considered to be somewhat afraid of it. The scouting reports relay the Belgium native often avoids contact at the basket and rather than attacking, and drawing fouls will far too often pull up for unbalanced jump shots or off-balance floaters. On the other side of the ball, he also struggles with the physicality at times, namely in the pick-and-roll situations. According to NBADraft.net Ntilikina regularly tries to avoid screens and rather than going or fighting over screens goes completely under and leaves his opponent wide open. On the flips side, he can be forced into a mismatch where he doesn’t put up any fight defending it.
Frank Ntilikina is the best foreign prospect available in the 2017 NBA Draft, and he is also the best defensive guard available within the lottery and possibly the first round which is remarkable considering he is just 18 years of age. Offensively, he has a pass first mentality, and he looks to get his teammates involved before he looks for his offense. His mechanics do need work, but Ntilikina has a very reliable jumper and the percentages back that up, and his mid-range game both shooting and floater wise is NBA ready.
The areas in which Ntilikina needs improvement on are all to be expected for somebody of his age, and you can find the same weaknesses within any of the top collegiate players that are projected to go in the top 10. They are nothing out of the ordinary and alike to Kristaps Porzingis the coaching standard and availability of facilities is nothing compared to the NBA and by putting in the time and work he will lessen those weaknesses and possibly turn some of them into strengths.