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P&T Round(ball) Table: The curious case of Frank Ntilikina

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Because it’s late January and we need some site traffic

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

“Oh great, another round table discussion, and it’s about Frank. Can you guys be any more of a hacky, unoriginal aggregation blog?!”

Nonexistent P&T commenter who’s a projection of my insecurities

Listen there, Anthony Michael for Staten Island, I’m (Drew) trying to find a writing rhythm for 2019 during a point in the season where nothing is going on other than nitpicking problems that may only exist due to the tank... maybe. Not only am I trying to get my groove back, anything Frank Ntilikina related has become such a lighting rod topic that it just brings in all the clicks. And if you know anything about me, the only thing I care about are the clicks on the articles with my name in the byline and praise on Twitter when I share my articles.

Anywell, here are the questions:

  1. Do you think spending time in the G-League would benefit Frank?
  2. Would it be wise to trade Frank now and if so, what’s a reasonable offer?
  3. On a scale of 1–7 (it’s better than 10 when you think about it), how worried are you about Frank’s trajectory and development long-term?

I know, excellent questions again. But are the answers excellent? Let’s find out.

(It should be noted that a number of these responses came together about a week ago, before Mudiay got hurt, and now, unfortunately, Frank also got hurt.)


Dillon Dente AKA New York Basketball Observer

  1. I don’t think it would hurt him to get reps in the G-League, but I also don’t see why he can’t take priority minutes to develop and play 35 minutes with the New York club right now.
  2. You could not talk me into trading Frank at all while on his rookie deal. He has outstanding defensive potential and is an almost ideal candidate to be a starting role player on a good team.
  3. Four. I’m slightly worried about Frank’s development, but more in terms of how his development is being managed as opposed to how much faith I have in his ability to develop. There’s no doubt to me that in the right system, on the right club right now, he could play 35 minutes per game for a winning team. I’ve been a well-documented believer in Frank and there’s been no major revelation this season that has bumped me off course, to be honest.

Professor Matthew Miranda

  1. No.
  2. No.
  3. If seven is “most worried,” I’m between six and seven. I’m worried the Knicks are too Knicksy not to fuck it up with Frank. He’s playing the same minutes he did a year ago, which is regression. If there’s a divide between Mills and Perry as to their feelings about him, get on the same page and get a move on already. I suspect the Knicks will trade Frank for nothing and he’s destined to blossom for his third team on his second contract. I’m already so angry about it.

China “Chiniqua” Parmalee

  1. Yes, Frank should go to the G-League. Why not? Ego is dumb and holds us back, and it would teach him to be more assertive.
  2. No, I would not trade him and fuck you for suggesting it.
  3. A two, maybe? If that? They said he would take years to develop, so why the hell with the fire drill?

Jonathan “Stingy” Schulman

  1. Yes, of course. Playing is valuable. Especially in the G-League with and against players who want to show that they deserve his spot. Frank tends to respond well when he’s challenged.
  2. No, not at all. The kid hasn’t even stopped growing. Just calm down. Your bullshit attitude is stressing everyone out.
  3. Seven. I’m deeply concerned because impatience will put the Knicks franchise in a stranglehold if and when they sign a marquee free agent. When the timeline for championship contention goes from within 3-5 years to immediately, promising young players are certain to be cast aside in favor of short term solutions. It’s that attitude that has swallowed the team for nearly 20 years. It will also keep the Knicks from being a great franchise for the years and/or decades to come.

Alex Wolfe

  1. If you asked me about two or three weeks ago (right after Frank got hurt), I’d probably have said yes. But as it stands now, I’m leaning more towards wanting him to be the starting point guard for the New York Knicks rather than their Westchester little brother. (Westchester is the youngest brother in the New York basketball family, twins with the Long Island Nets. That team in Brooklyn is the angsty middle child.) Frank’s been getting to the rim fairly easily lately and just needs to start finishing. He’s been doing an admirable job of running the offense. Let him figure it out against NBA players.
  2. It would not be wise to trade Frank right now. His value has to be fairly low around the league. The No. 1 rule of trades in the NBA (and all sports in general) is to never trade a player at his lowest value. I’d probably accept a first round pick inside the top 20 for him if I had to trade him, but my pride would really prefer to not give up on the kid and develop him, sticking it to all the lames that say that the Knicks (and New York fans) don’t have any patience.
  3. I’m at about a three. It’s just hard to read Fizdale. But I do believe that he’s trying to develop Frank and is just confused by his skillset and size. Frank’s about as big as your average wing now (6’7” with a 7’+ wingspan), so the easy thing to do would just be to try to develop him into an off-ball 3-and-D player. But Frank definitely has passing chops and seems like he’s a few tweaks away from being able to run a team full-time (at least to me). I think Fiz is just trying to figure out the puzzle, and thus far has been doing OK at best. Luckily, in the few games before Frank got hurt and the few since he’s come back, it seems like maybe Fiz is starting to figure Frank out. (The reason I chose a three, and not a zero or one, though, is that there’s always the chance that Fiz doesn’t get it at all, and will fuck this whole Frank thing up. Because Knicks.)

Shwinnypooh/GoKP

  1. Yeah, I think G-League reps could help, but I think that ship has sailed. We can act like optics shouldn’t matter, but they do, and sending him down to the G-League now would just look awful. Also considering his role has been moved around 3 times already this season, it behooves the organization to keep him with the big Knicks and use him in a steady role as they’ve been doing. Just give him more minutes like Fizdale did against OKC and explore more lineup combinations with him, because that’s the kind of flexibility he gives you. On a roster this bad filled with this many hopeless defensive perimeter players, Frank (and Dotson) should be getting at least 25 minutes a night easily.
  2. No, it would not be wise unless you’re getting some incredible value for him. You’re not going to get incredible value for him. He was a project when he was drafted and not in the Porzingis way, but in the Noah Vonleh way, where it was going to take a few years for him to develop his skills and put things together. For real, go back and check out his DX scouting report. Give the guy a chance to develop instead of doing the Knicksy thing by selling low.
  3. I’d say I’m a four. Right down the middle. I feel fairly confident his baseline is impactful perimeter defender who will have big value due to that versatility on a good team. Will he develop enough offensively to be the type of player who can also be a driver for a team to become good rather than just a valuable cog? His handle is improved and he shows good vision and passing touch at times, particularly in pick-and-roll, but those things are not at the level they need to be anywhere near consistent enough for a lead ball handler. He’s also been horribly inefficient as a scorer and struggles to identify when he has a mismatch. Sometimes even when he identifies it he doesn’t quite know how to capitalize and ends up taking some awkward fade-away J. The day Frank figures out how to leverage his size to his advantage on offense is the day his trajectory changes. Hopefully he gets there.

Drew Steele

  1. When I asked this question in the Posting and Toasting Slack, I was leaning towards “yes.” Given the way FIzdale has been handling Ntilikina and allowing Mudiay to do whatever he pleases, it just made sense for Frank to play lead guard in the G-League to work on being more aggressive, his jump shot, and other offensive facets of his game. Fizdale was doing a poor job of putting Frank in positions to succeed, so maybe Mike Miller can do the job Fizdale is supposed to be doing. That was the logic until Frank started playing much better over the past few games. Sure, he hasn’t scored well, but Ntilikina is back to playing excellent defense and providing more flow and rhythm to the offense. It doesn’t matter to me whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, just play Ntilikina more minutes than Mudiay and with players and rotations that make sense. This shouldn’t be a hard concept to grasp, but it apparently is for Fizdale.
  2. There is a part of me that thinks the Knicks should trade Ntilikina if he really isn’t the player the coaching staff and front office want moving forward. No point in jerking him around because they don’t know what they want to or should do with him, so just trade him for someone that does fit. The other part of me thinks that the type of player the Knicks front office and coaching staff value are “shot creators” who can’t play defense — I’m tired of these type of players. Giving up on a player who was projected to be a multi-year project before the multi-year period is over is beyond idiotic, especially in favor of a player in Emmanual Mudiay whose ceiling is maybe competent backup point guard. This isn't to say Ntilikina is “untradeable,” rather let’s just wait another year and see where we are. It’s not like the Wizards are going to trade Bradley Beal for Ntilikina straight up given Frank’s inconsistency and raw numbers.
  3. As much as I want to say zero, I’m gonna say four, which is right down the middle. Ntilikina isn’t hitting shots consistently, and it’s the difference between him being a legit starter on a very good playoff team and just being a backup point guard who plays great defense. He still doesn’t know how to consistently utilize his length against smaller or slower defenders when driving to the rim. He doesn’t hit outside shots at a high clip and looks like he has a different release every time he launches from behind the arc. Hopefully we can see more consistent glimpses to end the year, but this may not happen until sometime next year. Stay patient.