The New York Knicks have had difficulty developing their draft picks in recent years. 3rd-year guard Frank Ntilikina’s potential has been a divisive topic among Knicks fans. A lottery selection in the 2018 draft, Frank’s career to this point hasn’t panned out the way many would have hoped. So how should the Knicks utilize the Frenchman going forward?
Frank Ntilikina is not the Knicks’ point guard of the future, and that’s fine.
Frank hasn’t been able to take hold of the Knicks starting point guard job. This is where the Knicks as a franchise have let disappointment and frustration dominate both their narrative and their decisions. A classic Knicks move would be to completely jump ship. However, just because Ntilikina isn’t going to be an All-Star does not mean his future is bleak.
Frank’s recipe for success is as the team’s “swiss army knife” off the bench. The sooner the front office and fans can accept this, the easier it will be to let Frank grow into the best player he can be.
So what are Frank’s strengths? Ntilikina’s defense has been what has kept him on the court. Frank was measured at 6’6 at the FIBA World Cup this past summer. His height and massive 7’1 wingspan allow him effortlessly clog passing lanes and disrupt ball handlers. Currently, Ntilikina ranks as the 5th most effective pick and roll defender in the NBA. His frame and tenacity not only make him an annoyance for opposing point guards but also allow him to even match up and defend taller wing players.
On offense, Frank has shown flashes of playmaking potential. He’s worked well operating a pick and roll, but his shooting has been dreadful. Shooting just 38% from the field and 30% from 3, Frank’s ability to score has been erratic. So if he is to improve his game, where can the Knicks look for inspiration?
Frank Ntilikina can be the next… Justise Winslow?
Now while current Memphis Grizzly Justise Winslow was recently traded away by the Heat, his career to this point can be a lesson for Frank and Knicks fans. Winslow, like Ntilikina, was a lottery pick who stayed on the court because of his defense. Winslow struggled with his shooting early on, shooting just 40% from the field and 26% from 3 in his first two seasons.
The Heat stuck with him. Winslow continued to improve his shooting and playmaking while becoming one of the league’s best defenders. Winslow cemented himself as a jack-of-all-trades whose versatility allowed him to thrive.
At 21 years old, Frank’s development is far from over. In accepting a new role that lets him focus on his strengths, he could turn into a dangerous 2-way player. So whether or not the Knicks select a point guard in the 2020 draft, Ntilikina should still be seen as a piece of the Knicks’ future.