Frank Ntilikina, Future Defensive Star?

Frank Ntilikina, the New York Knicks 8th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft has received his fair share of criticism for being too passive, or not having enough offensive skill, I think he’s quieted those doubters. Phil Jackson received a lot of criticism for the pick because of him passing up on studs like, Dennis Smith Jr., drafted one pick after by the Mavs, and Malik Monk who surprisingly fell to the Hornets at pick 11. But after having time to come into the NBA fold, Ntilikina has shown a large amount of potential as a strong but quiet defensive player. We’ve seen that he has a very solid feel for the game on the defensive end with quick hands and long arms he’s consistently disrupting the passing lanes. He most recently received praise from 4 time All Star and NBA champ Kyrie Irving who said, “He’s a great on ball defender, man. Very long. Very active. Not afraid of the big moments. Just a developing young player. Can’t wait to play against him more times throughout this league.” Hearing a quote like this from an offensive star as great as Kyrie is huge and very motivating for a young player. Throughout that Knicks Celtics game Ntilikina had shown that he wasn’t afraid of Kyrie by constantly getting his hand on the ball and disrupting the plays from happening.

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Frank being a rookie has come into the league with a rather minimal offensive arsenal, but has received praises from Knicks veteran guard Ramon Sessions who said he’s seen flashes of Kyrie with his ability to dribble between defenders. Frank is still coming off the bench for the Knicks and rightfully so with another veteran point guard in Jarrett Jack who provides a solid pass first point who can facilitate the ball on the floor. Frank has provided a solid spark off a strong and scrappy Knicks bench. He has a 102.2 defensive rating this year which is 4th in the league when compared to rookies who have played at least 20 games this season while also being 3rd in steals per game with 1.3. I believe it’s safe to say that Ntilikina will become a force on the defensive end but the real question of his NBA future will be how he develops his offensive game. He is ranked 11th among rookies who’ve played at least 20 games in offensive rating with a 102.4, with his best abilities being his poise, and passing. With a 1.72 assist to turnover ratio puts him in 6th among all active rookies with 20 games played, while also shooting 36.3% from the field and 32.2% from three. His field goal percentage puts him in 22nd amongst rookies with at least 20 games played, and 15th in 3-point percentage. But I’d say Ntilikinas most promising stat is that he has 37.4% of the Knicks steals this season, first amongst rookies with at least 20 games played.

New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers

At the start of the season we all had our doubts about Franks ability to impact the floor, and what kind of player he would become when you compare him to the rookies that Phil Jackson passed on. But he seems to be developing a stronger offensive skill set and aggression, while also filling a solid defensive role that is vital in this golden era of point guards where almost every team has or is developing a star at that position. With all the problems around Phil Jackson being President of the Knicks, I think it can be safe to say that the two first rounds picks that Phil drafted (Kristaps Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina) are going to be great contributors on the Knicks while Kristaps has already become a bona fide star in the NBA in his third season. The Knicks future is looking surprisingly bright but with the team having the most home games of the season so far. But considering how mediocre they can be on the road (2-11 record), they have 12 of their 16 games on the road in January, it can be safe to say that the Knicks 17-17 record could begin to fall once the start of the new year.

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