Frank Ntilikina finally had his chance to start at point guard. He was calm, cool, and collected for the New York Knicks all night.
What is Frank Ntilikina? It’s a question that continues to loom large over the long-term vision for the New York Knicks. It’s a question that David Fizdale will continue to examine, prod, experiment with, and perhaps agonize over at times. In one of his early experimentations, Fizdale opted to start Ntilikina at point guard for the first time this season.
He took on Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, and he held his own. In 25 minutes, Ntilikina tied a career high with 17 points. He was 6-for-11 shooting and an excellent 3-for-7 from deep. The only criticism from this game relating to Frank is that Fizdale didn’t play him enough.
Ntilikina and the Knicks couldn’t hold off the inevitable offensive onslaught that the Warriors keep at the ready. The onslaught arrived late in the fourth quarter, but it made up for lost time. The Warriors outscored the Knicks by 31 in the final frame and the defending champs dispatched of the scrappy Knicks 128-100. But Ntilikina and the Knicks earned the Warriors’ respect.
Stephen Curry didn’t quite know how to pronounce Ntilikina, but he definitely took notice of him on the court.
“How he played tonight is obviously showing a lot of promise in what he can bring to their team.”
Ntilikina was aggressive offensively and used his length and strength to attack the rim. For those of us with concerns about his offensive game, he put those to rest for one night.
One thing is for certain. Ntilikina has something of value for an NBA team. He’s an elite perimeter defender and he’s capable of becoming a lockdown defender off the bench or in the starting lineup playing at the two or three spot. Think Anthony Roberson of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not much offense, but the potential to be a defensive lynchpin on a playoff-bound team.
If you don’t believe in Frank’s defensive ability, you’re behind the curve on this one. Look at this stifling defense on Durant.
Durant can’t shake Frank pic.twitter.com/htT8Vizy7J
— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) October 27, 2018
We have an idea on what he can be at the very least — a dominating defender. But what about his ceiling? He was drafted by Phil Jackson as a point guard. At 6-foot-7 his length and ability to shut down ballhandlers on the perimeter could be deadly from the point guard spot. The league is as deep as it’s ever been at the position and having a defender that can harass and pester opposing floor generals is a tantalizing vision for the future. But his offense has always been the biggest question surrounding his game.
He answered some of those questions tonight.
To be clear, one game is not enough to anoint Ntilikina as the savior at point guard. This was an excellent starting point for the youngster, but it’s far from the finish line. His audition continues on Monday against the Brooklyn Nets.
Fizdale pushed some buttons with significant changes to the starting lineup. It wasn’t enough to secure a victory against the vaunted Warriors, but it was enough to unlock an aggressiveness rarely seen from Frank Ntilikina.