Should Phil Jackson select Frank Ntilikina in the NBA Draft, he’d be doing an extremely smart thing for the New York Knicks.
The general consensus is that after the top seven prospects in the draft, there is a drop off in talent to a secondary group of players. It’s safe to assume that Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum and De’Aaron Fox will be off the board when the Knicks pick, and Jonathan Isaac and Malik Monk are also heavy favorites to be selected before the Knicks pick.
Thus, New York will likely have to pick from a pool of Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith, Zach Collins, Lauri Markkanen and Justin Jackson. And despite not being a well known, established college player, the Knicks best bet might be Frank Ntilikina.
A French point guard who plies his trade with Strasbourg, a team in France’s top division, Ntilikina is an intriguing prospect that is relatively unknown outside of draft circles. Despite putting up very modest numbers in France (Ntilikina averaged just over five points per game this past season), he still has good NBA upside and could be a good fit in New York.
Sound familiar? Remember two years ago, when a certain Latvian big man was a big unknown commodity? Kristaps Porzingis put up modest numbers at Sevilla, and was selected largely due to his upside, and he is now close to becoming the face of the Knicks franchise.
Ntilikina is a similarly intriguing prospect in that he is an unknown commodity. While the other big players in the draft played in the NCAA, and have balled out on the biggest stages. Ntilikina, on the other hand, has been stashed over in Europe for three seasons. At 18 years old, he’s been playing against grown men since he was 16, and has won France’s Young Player of the Year award two years running.
Not only is his experience a plus, but he also has a large skill set and great physical tools that could mold him into a quality starting point guard for the Knicks, a position of need.
Before delving into Ntilikina’s strengths, it is important to stress that fit is also a key part of this article. Ntilikina fits the triangle very well- he isn’t a ball dominant guard who runs pick and rolls and attacks the hole. He is a good passer, a good spot up shooter, and is very unselfish, all great traits for a point guard in the triangle. Remember, Ron Harper and Derek Fisher weren’t All-Star point guards, but they were still very effective in the triangle for the Bulls and Lakers, respectively.
As a prospect, Ntilikina has several massive strengths. First and foremost, Ntilikina is a terrific defender. Last seasons starting point guard, Derrick Rose, was a turnstile on defense. Ntilikina is the opposite. At 6-foot-5, his size and strength allow him to lock down smaller guards, and he also has terrific smarts, footwork, anticipation, and timing. Not only is Ntilikina a terrific defender, but he is also a versatile one — he can guard both backcourt positions. In a league that is shifting its emphasis towards guards being the primary scorers, Ntilikina is a terrific option in todays NBA.
His strengths don’t end on defense– offensively, despite not being a ball dominant point guard, Ntilikina is a terrific pick and roll ball handler, and a plus three point shooter — he shot 52% from three this season, albeit on 62 attempts.
Overall, Ntilikina is a terrific defender, a plus three point shooter, and a player capable of running the pick and roll. Physically, despite not being very explosive, Ntilikina has a terrific frame, has great size, and a strong feel for the game. Additionally, he plays with more poise and confidence than most 18 year olds.
Despite being an international player, and not having the upside of some of the higher regarded prospects, at worst Ntilikina will be a plus defender with good passing and a dependable outside shot, and someone who won’t hog the ball and take touches away from Kristaps Porzingis (looking at you, Mr. Rose).
He might not be the fans choice, but Frank Ntilikina would be an excellent selection for the Knicks in the upcoming draft.