New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina went backwards in his progression

New York Knicks, Knicks
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The battle for the New York Knicks point guard position got a little clearer Wednesday night.  Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina and Elfrid Payton were all trying to “earn” their time.  However, one guard took steps forward and the others took a few steps back.

Coach David Fizdale said that “no one has earned” the starting job yet, in regards to the point guard position.  RJ Barrett was the man running point to begin the game then Payton took over, playing extremely well, despite careless fouls.

Payton was able to push the ball up the floor and give the team a better fast break then the rest.  He ended the night with zero turnovers, 11 points on 44% shooting, eight assists, two rebounds and five steals.  The Knicks looked like a competent team with him leading the charge.  Therefore, Payton is the current leader in the clubhouse.

Despite Payton’s strong performance, Ntilikina’s game was anything but.

Ntilikina was making progress from his summer playing for France in the FIBA World Cup and just took a few steps backwards.  Some of the plays that Ntilikina had stopped any momentum that the Knicks had.  He had two careless passes which led to turnovers and easy buckets for the Spurs.  The Spurs were shook offensively before that and swung the momentum, ultimately winning the game.

Some may call the errors Ntilikina had ‘JV plays’ and they were painful to watch.  The turnovers he had were passed right to Spur defenders.  The Knicks showed their trust and confidence in Ntilikina by picking up his fourth-year option but he squashed that quickly.  Yes, it was only one game but that alone wasn’t going to earn him more minutes.

Again, yes it was one game but Payton has to be the clear favorite for the point guard job now.  Barrett can’t be the guy because he’s too valuable to put in that position.  The Knicks can’t afford to run him into the ground this early in his promising career.

Smith Jr. showed that he’s still not 100% in all aspects of his game.  Health, shooting and defense wise.  In time, he’ll be back to his normal self, but for now this Payton’s job to lose.