According to multiple reports, the New York Knicks are picking up Frank Ntilikina’s fourth-year option for the 2020-21 season.
Ntilikina has career averages of 5.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game on ugly shooting splits (35.4/30.5/73.5). However, his perimeter defense and ability to switch one through four is tailor-made for the NBA’s growing reliance on switch-heavy defensive schemes.
The third-year guard has had two forgettable seasons with the Knicks, but he showed upside in the FIBA World Cup this past summer. He was the catalyst in France’s stunning upset over Team USA in the quarterfinals. Ntilikina’s stifling defense of Kemba Walker and his timely fourth-quarter buckets paved the way for France’s victory.
This is a no-brainer for the Knicks. They have no need to clear cap space because the 2020 free-agent class will likely be devoid of any true superstars.
Additionally, Ntilikina’s trade value is much higher now that the fourth-year option is picked up. The French point guard will now be a restricted free agent after the 2020-21 season.
If the Knicks didn’t pick up the option, Ntilikina would become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season. No team would be willing to move assets of any value for a project who could walk at the end of the season.
As it stands, Ntilikina is still in the mix to be the starting point guard on Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs. Ntilikina, Elfrid Payton, and Dennis Smith Jr. are the three men vying for the job and none of the three made a significant claim on the starting role during the preseason.
Ntilikina is the best defender of the bunch, but it’s still not clear if that will be enough to win the job.