Given their inability to land a new lead guard, the Knicks are running out of excuses to not start Frank Ntilikina.
This offseason, the New York Knicks have prioritized trading Carmelo Anthony and finding a starting point guard. Prioritizing and doing are two completely different things. Finding a new point guard has been the bigger struggle of the two.
Failing to sign free agents Jrue Holiday, George Hill, Shelvin Mack and even Rajon Rondo, the Knicks have swung and missed on every one of their point guard targets; they’ve also been unable to swing a deal on the trade market. Given their inability to land a lead guard, the Knicks should begin to seriously consider starting rookie Frank Ntilikina at the point, as they’re ultimately running out of reasons to not start him.
Selected eighth overall, the 18-year-old Ntilikina comes to New York with plenty of room to grow, especially in terms of weight. Standing at a rail thin 170 pounds, Ntilikina will need to add some pounds, to avoid getting pushed around in the NBA. His thin stature, though, doesn’t take away from his well-rounded skill set.
Standing at 6 foot 5, Ntilikina possesses an impressive 7-foot wingspan; that wingspan contributes to his athletic play on both ends of the court. Given his long arms, Ntilikina is a gnat on the defensive end and can also play above the rim; those skill sets help make him a physical specimen. In addition to his athleticism though, Ntilikina is a floor general too.
Playing with a selfless mentality and pushing the ball up the court in transition, Ntilikina is a well-rounded playmaker. That unselfish play and ability to play in transition at ease, are two attributes the Knicks have been deprived of in recent years with their starting point guards.
Despite his well-rounded skill set though, the Knicks are still stubborn upon utilizing Ntilikina as a reserve.
Given his light weight and inexperience at the NBA level, the Knicks aren’t keen on starting Ntilikina year one. However, if they don’t start Ntilikina, what’re their options at point?
Outside of the Frenchman, the Knicks have Ron Baker — who they resigned on a two-year deal. Baker, though, isn’t a true point guard. While he played some point last year, the Knicks were ultimately playing their youngsters to close out the year — essentially tanking the end of the season — and Baker was playing out of position. While he’s a steady player, Baker is more of a perimeter player, as opposed to a ball dominant lead guard.
After Baker, the Knicks have Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr (both shooting guards), as well as second year guard Chasson Randle. Randle has yet to show that he’s capable of playing big time minutes. So where do they turn?
Given the lack of depth they possess at the position, as well as their inability to make a move, the Knicks should look to make Ntilikina their starting point guard.
Are some of the doubts the Knicks have about Ntilikina respectable? Of course, but while many thought Ntilikina was drafted solely because of former president Phil Jackson, Steve Mills confirmed that he would’ve selected the Frenchman had he been granted the final say. With that in mind, Mills and the Knicks saw something in Ntilikina that intrigued them. If they want to see that something blossom and become something in the big apple, you need to start him. A perfect model for that notion is Kristaps Porzingis.
Two years ago, the Knicks drafted Porzingis with the fourth pick and while they had some doubts about his thin, 7-foot-3 frame, they ultimately started him. Worked out pretty well for them right?
In his two years with them, Porzingis has excelled on both ends of the floor. Serving as a well-rounded offensive threat and a shot blocking presence, Porzingis has been a two-way force for the Knicks; he’s also just 21. His stellar production and youth have led the Knicks to believe that he can be their cornerstone piece going forward.
If the Knicks had never started him from the get-go who knows if Porzingis is the player he’s blossomed into today?
If the Knicks want to see what they have in Ntilikina, they’ll never have the chance to assess his game by having him come off the bench. The only way for the Knicks to judge his overall arsenal is to start him at the point from day one. While they have some doubts about doing so, it does no good to acquire another lead guard to play in front of him — it’ll only hurt any potential growth for him going forward.
The Knicks are running out of excuses to not start Ntilikina; he’s their best man at the point and holding him back two or more years will only hurt any potential progression he endures.