New York Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina has no shortage of fans in the Big Apple. As it turns out, Leon Rose may also be in his corner.
"Leon Rose isn't going to be out there shopping Frank Ntilikina as the Knicks had been previously"
— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) April 15, 2020
Ntilikina hive rejoice! Fans of the third-year guard would certainly welcome this support after the Knicks, under Steve Mills, had reportedly tried to shop Ntilikina while his trade value was almost non-existent.
Begley’s report states that prior to last year’s draft, there was a “75% chance” that Ntilikina could have been dealt. Additionally, the Knicks were reportedly considering a second-round draft pick as compensation for the team’s top perimeter defender.
Ntilikina may be the most polarizing Knick since Carmelo Anthony. Despite that, his development is symbolic of a franchise that has lacked the stomach and consistent leadership needed to invest the time and confidence needed for any teenager, selected in the lottery, to show growth.
Full transparency, I was never the biggest Ntilikina fan, however, I have come around to the kid. ESNY’s Danny Small and Chip Murphy have done a ton of impressive film work and have written well-researched features regarding Ntilikina’s skillset and projection as a player at the pro level.
In the early stages of his career, Ntilikina spent far too much time on the bench playing behind players like Jarrett Jack, Trey Burke and, Emmanuel Mudiay. None of those guards had any shot of being long-term Knicks, yet coaches failed to provide Ntilikina the opportunity to work through his mistakes and cut his teeth on an NBA floor when he needed it the most.
Yet, even with limited playing time, Ntilikina did impress on the defensive side of the floor. As Chip Murphy points out, “But Ntilikina didn’t play like a rookie on defense. He lowered the opponent’s field goal percentage by 3% when he was the primary defender, and he was in the 90th percentile of efficiency as a defender on the ball handler during a pick and roll.”
Say what you want about interpreting stats from a player on a bad team, but Ntilkina’s net rating currently ranks third on the Knicks behind Wayne Ellington and Mitchell Robinson. Furthermore, according to Basketball-Reference, he ranks second on the team in defensive box plus-minus and his value on the court jumps off the screen on film.
— NBA (@NBA) March 3, 2020
In what was easily one of the best Knicks wins of the season, Ntilikina helped to shut-down former MVP Russell Westbrook as he looked to put a dagger in the hearts of Knicks fans towards the end of a game in early March.
But it was Ntilikina’s lateral movement and ability to avoid fouling as he put the clamps on the nine-time All-Star, helping the Knicks secure the 124-121 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Putting Ntilikina’s defensive prowess aside, he’s not without his faults. A career 32% shooter from the three-point line, Ntilikina must showcase the confidence and ability to hit open shots. Frank’s defenders may point to his ball-hawk-like defense as a momentum shifter, yet his tendency to miss open shots after positive ball movement also shifts the momentum, but in a negative way.
In the end, Knicks fans looking for signs of forward progress, as an organization, may hope that Ntilikina receives an extension. Charlie Ward remains the last first-round Knicks draft pick to see his second contract in a Knicks uniform, and that fact alone speaks volumes for a franchise looking to return to relevancy.
For now, it seems that the Frenchmen is safe. But it remains to be seen whether the Knicks will invest the time and energy need for Ntilikina to realize his full potential.