The New York Knicks will likely have some representation in Julius Randle and Frank Ntilikina at the FIBA World Cup in China this September.
The FIBA World Cup is almost upon us. While it doesn’t carry the same significance of the Olympics, but it’s high-level basketball in the summertime—what could be better?
For New York Knicks fans, seeing Frank Ntilikina (France) and Julius Randle (USA) playing in China is a distinct possibility at this point. Both players were invited to their respective training camps that are set to take place in early August.
Moreover, both players have legitimate opportunities to show out in training camp and make the final rosters. The World Cup begins on Aug. 31 and will finish up on Sept. 15.
Most teams aren’t in love with the idea of their players playing in the World Cup and risking injury. However, there are definite positives for the Knicks to draw from sending Ntilikina and Randle to China.
Ntilikina has been a curious case with the Knicks. While he’s flashed elite defensive potential, he’s never been able to develop consistency on the offensive end.
A hot-and-cold jumper has made the transition to the NBA difficult for the Belgium-born player. That being said, Ntilikina just turned 21 on Monday and still has heaps of upside.
Ntilikina struggled to stay on the court last season. The last thing the Knicks want is to see the French guard go down in September and risk losing him for a chunk of the regular season.
However, it’s still unclear what the Knicks plan to do with Ntilikina. If he goes to China and performs well, the Knicks might see his stock rise and find more willing trade partners.
Better yet, if Ntilikina shows out in the World Cup, that could change the tune of anyone in the front office ready to move on from the 21-year-old.
Vincent Collet, the head coach of Team France, has known Ntilikina since he was 15. He knows him as well as any coach and perhaps he can set an example for Knicks head coach David Fizdale on how to best utilize Ntilikina.
There is little doubt that the young Frenchman will make the final roster, but he will likely come off the bench. Collet has lauded Ntilikina for his defensive prowess and the long-limbed guard is capable of guarding four positions at a high level.
Considering his familiarity with his coach, the World Cup could be exactly what Ntilikina needs to find his rhythm before a pivotal year three with the Knicks.
Randle is a slightly different story from Ntilikina. He was the big-ticket signing this offseason and his three-year, $63 million contract served as a consolation prize after the Knicks missed out on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
No one could blame the Knicks for silently hoping Randle is cut from the final roster. Initially, Randle wasn’t even on the shortlist for the roster. Only when a slew of big names backed out did he get the call.
That being said, he is definitely in the mix for a final roster spot. He can play the four or the five and his tenacious style of play could provide a solid spark off the bench. It’s easy to forget that before he was a permanent fixture in the New Orleans Pelicans starting lineup, Randle was in the early running for Sixth Man of the Year last season.
With only 17 players competing for 12 spots, Randle could be one of the final players cut or he could slide in as a valuable bench piece.
The Other Guys
Mitchell Robinson won’t be an “other guy” for long. But for now, he’ll be working with the USA men’s national team in a limited capacity. Robinson was selected to play for the USA Select Team. That squad generally consists of younger, up-and-coming players.
Robinson and company will scrimmage the main team on Aug. 9 in Las Vegas. There’s no way the lanky big man will be taking part in the World Cup this time around. But it certainly looks like Robinson has a good chance of playing for Team USA in the future.
RJ Barrett is another young Knick who will be participating in August activities with his country’s national team. The 19-year-old was invited to Team Canada’s training camp. There are 29 players participating in camp and it’s highly unlikely that Barrett ends up on the final roster.
His father, Rowan Barrett, is the general manager of the Canadian men’s national team and there’s no doubt he has some perspective on the situation.
The younger Barrett is staring down the barrel of an 82-game season that starts in October. Going to training camp to work out with the best players Canada has to offer will be a huge benefit for Barrett. But that doesn’t mean he should be playing in the World Cup.
While the summer months post-free agency can be a brutal grind, the FIBA World Cup will give Knicks fans something to watch. Heck, it’s an alternative to workout videos, if nothing else.