New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina could be left behind with Tom Thibodeau’s strategy

New York Knicks, Frank Ntilikina

The New York Knicks have a tall task ahead of them trying to figure out who they’re going to utilize at point guard and why.

The expectation is that Tom Thibodeau will select Elfrid Payton as a starter, considering he is the most refined of the group and offers veteran experience. In addition, he’s a solid defensive player and can create on the go, fitting the mold of transition point guard, a strategy that fits Obi Toppin’s style and the fast-paced system I anticipate seeing.

Here’s a list of all the New York Knicks’ guards:

-Frank Ntilikina



-Elfrid Payton

-Dennis Smith Jr.

-Myles Powell

-Immanuel Quickley

-Jared Harper

-Austin Rivers

With this many guards fighting for playing time, it the question, where does Frank Ntilikina fit into this mess? Last season with the Knicks, Frank had his highest points per game at 6.3, logging 3.0 assists and 2.1 total rebounds on .393% shooting from the floor. He only averaged 20.8 minutes per game, but the expectation is that he will have to fight for every minute in a crowded room of guards.

“It’s part of the game,’’ Ntilikina said of the playing-time battle. “We have a lot of guards on this team, a lot of competitors, which is going to bring the best out of the team. We’re going to compete hard for minutes and the coach is going to decide what he wants to do. We have trust in him. He knows what he’s doing. He knows his job. So he’s going to put the best players together on the court.’’

The New York Knicks are going in a new direction:

Youngsters with potential aren’t going to earn preferential treatment this season, as Tom plans to put a winning product on the floor. As a well-known coach that understands player development, I think this is in the best interest of the team. Allowing the Knicks to become the joke of the NBA is not the proper method of developing confidence and chemistry with your players.

However, Ntilikina might not see his usual fair shot at starting minutes. The reality is, he is a defensive maestro that offers solid late-game value and is essentially a lead protector. He did see a slight bump in his scoring production last year, finishing with 28 points in the last two games of the season. In the final six games of the year, he enjoyed double-digit points twice— a positive stride.

“At the end of last season it allowed to be more comfortable on the court,’’ Ntilikina said. “Of course [I worked on] my defense, but also offensively being a better player, being able to score and give my teammates a lot of options. That’s why I felt really more comfortable at the end of last season and that’s what I’m trying to work on and keep improving.’’

For Frank to earn starting minutes, he’s going to have to improve his scoring, that’s the bottom line. Whether or not he can do that is yet to be seen, but he has been working tirelessly to improve his game and prepare for the 2020–21 season.