Frank Ntilikina
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Frank Ntilikina is fresh off an emotional win against Kemba Walker and Team USA, but he can’t relax against Argentina’s Facundo Campazzo.

Danny Small

Frank Ntilikina is coming off the best performance of his career. Timely buckets in the fourth quarter and his suffocating full-court pressure looked large in France’s historic win over Team USA.

The New York Knicks point guard outplayed Kemba Walker. Yes, Ntilikina got the better of an All-NBA point guard in a do-or-die game in the FIBA World Cup.

It was a hell of a moment for the 21-year-old, but the tournament doesn’t stop there. The French will now look to their semifinal opponent—Argentina. No player has been as important for the Argentines as Facundo Campazzo.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that Campazzo has never played in the NBA. The 28-year-old is averaging 13.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 8.0 assists per game in the World Cup. He’s shooting 49.1% from the field and 43.8% from three-point range. There’s no doubt that Campazzo is talented enough to play in the NBA.

The electric Real Madrid guard has no shortage of tricks in his bag. He’s put together some of the best highlights from the entire World Cup.

Despite the excellent stats from Campazzo, Ntilikina will surely be able to lock him up after stifling Kemba Walker. Right? In fact, the answer to that question isn’t so simple.

Team USA lacked any semblance of continuity with this makeshift roster that resembled a professional AAU team more than anything else. Even legendary head coach Gregg Popovich couldn’t figure out how to make all the pieces fit.

The offense devolved into isolation play with the diminutive Walker looking to break down his defender. This played right into France’s hands. The length of Ntilikina on the perimeter and rim protection from Rudy Gobert effectively shut down Walker for the vast majority of the game.

Argentina is without any current NBA players on the roster, but they have the continuity that Walker and Team USA lacked. The clearly defined roles and rotations help Argentina play above their talent level.

They play a fluid offensive game with the 5-foot-11 Campazzo serving as the Argentine maestro who makes the symphony echo throughout the gym. However, he’s not playing by himself. Enter 39-year-old Luis Scola—the ageless wonder.

Scola is leading Argentina with 17.8 points per game and shooting 40% from three-point range. Of course, Rudy Gobert is the best defender in the world. While he’s in the prime of his career, he should be capable of stopping Scola. That being said, the French have already had trouble defending bigs who can stretch the floor with the three-point shot.

The Australian Sharpshooter

In France’s only loss of the tournament, Australian Aron Baynes torched France for 21 points on 5-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc.

Gobert can handle himself in any defensive situation, but guarding the perimeter is a waste of his value and puts him in disadvantageous situations for the rest of the defense. As a result, Gobert tends to stick in the paint for as long as he can. The Boomers exploited that by sending plenty of pick-and-pops at France.

France will need to clean up these types of miscommunications. If not, they run the risk of letting Campazzo and Scola run circles around a typically great French defense.

While Ntilikina’s head-to-head matchup may lack the name recognition of Team USA’s backcourt, Campazzo is every bit as dangerous as Walker, or any point guard at the World Cup for that matter.

Friday’s semifinal matchup should be another important test for Ntilikina on France’s road to a World Cup championship.

 

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