Once you scratch the surface, you can see that Frank Ntilikina is holding his own when compared to other rookie point guards. Patience is a virtue.
The most polarizing player on the New York Knicks roster is Frank Ntilikina. Everyone from LeBron James to Steven A. Smith to Joe Schmo on social media has had an opinion on whether New York should have drafted Ntilikina or one of the other available guards. Despite not having an in your face father/hype man, flashy layup line dunks or a violent and dangerous upbringing, Ntilikina has been holding his own against other rookie point guards.
The 19-year-old guard out of France was the youngest player in the 2017 NBA Draft. The Knicks drafted him with the eighth overall selection. His 6-foot-5, 190-pound frame and defensive intensity were positives coming into the league. The knock on him was his shooting and aggressiveness on offense. Let us look at how Frank Ntilikina compares to other rookie point guards.
Other 2017 Draftees
There were seven lead guards drafted in the lottery of the 2017 Draft.
- Markelle Fultz: Philadelphia (No. 1)
- Lonzo Ball: Los Angeles Lakers(No. 2)
- DeAaron Fox: Sacramento (No. 5)
- Frank Ntilikina: New York (No. 8)
- Dennis Smith Jr.: Dallas (No.9)
- Malik Monk: Charlotte (No 11)
- Donovan Mitchell: Utah (No. 13)
As bad as some people claim Ntilikina has been, he stacks up quite nicely when you compare his per 36 minutes statistics to those of his draft peers. Fultz has only played in four games this season. He was left out of the comparisons.
Mitchell is shooting the best of the group from the floor, knocking down 42.6 percent of his shots. Ball is bringing up the rear of this category, only hitting 33.9 percent of the shots he takes. Ntilikina is right in the middle of the pack shooting 36.0 percent. He has improved on that lately. He is 38.9 percent from the floor in his last five games. Ntilikina’s 32.0 percent from behind the three-point arch is good for third in this group. He is second out of these players in assists per 36 minutes (5.9) and free-throw percentage (74.2). The “French Prince” is leading all rookies with 2.4 steals per 36 minutes. His 3.4 turnovers per 36 minutes are second just behind Smith Jr. (3.8). Those numbers should improve over time as they both become more comfortable in the Association.
Frank Ntilikina vs. Kris Dunn
Another player who was drafted in the lottery that “underperformed” his rookie season is Kris Dunn. The second-year guard was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the third overall pick in the 2016 Draft.
Rookie Seasons- per 36 minutes
- Kris Dunn- 37.7 FG%, 28.8 3pt%, 61.0 FT%, 7.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 2.1 steals and 2.4 turnovers
- Frank Ntilikina- 36.0 FG%, 32.0 3pt%, 74.2 FT%, 10.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 2.4 steals and 3.4 turnovers
Since being traded to the Chicago Bulls in the offseason, Dunn’s game has started to blossom. He is averaging 13.3 points, 5.2 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 3.0 turnovers in 28.4 minutes per game. He is also shooting the ball much better. There is no reason to believe that Ntilikina cannot make the same strides. Keep in mind: Dunn was 22 years old when he entered the league. Ntilikina is only 19.
The point is this: Nothing has been determined after 30 games in the NBA. Has Donovan Mitchell been the most outstanding rookie guard so far this season? Yes. Does that mean that Frank Ntilikina is a bust? Absolutely not. In fact, when comparing his numbers against the other rookie guards, Ntilikina is doing holding his own just fine.