Frank Ntilikina, one of the last vestiges of the young core that showed promise last season when Kristaps Porzingis was still the future, will reportedly be shopped by the Knicks on draft night, in yet another reminder that team owes no loyalty to those who came before Scott Perry was hired.
Ntilikina, drafted by Phil Jackson with the eighth overall selection in 2017, has had a bumpy ride thus far in the NBA. In 119 total games over two seasons, he’s posted averages of 5.9 points, 3.1 assists and 2.2 rebounds, while shooting a paltry 36 percent from the field and 31 percent from beyond the arc. Although he has displayed some stunning abilities on the defensive end, Ntlikina’s 0.8 steals per game don’t exactly scream “untradeable.”
Ntilikina has missed the last 17 games with a groin strain that was initially expected to sideline him for only two weeks, and the Knicks have apparently decided that it may be worth it to see what they can get for the 20-year-old Frenchman, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.
“According to a source, Knicks brass will explore their options on draft night with Ntilikina,” Berman wrote on Thursday. “Obviously, Ntilikina is available in any Anthony Davis package, but if the Knicks can acquire an extra first-round pick for him, they would consider it.”
The Knicks, of course, currently have two other options at point guard, with Dennis Smith Jr. and Emmanuel Mudiay both having shown they can run the point for worst team in the NBA. Seeing as this is only one report, it’s worthwhile to take it with a grain of salt, but if Knicks fans have learned anything this season, it’s that the team has no qualms getting rid of players from the previous regime as they look toward the future.
At the current moment, the only Jackson era Knicks that remain are Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson, Lance Thomas and Luke Kornet, and considering the amount of roster turnover that has taken place since Perry was installed in July 2017, fans would be wise to worry that the days of seeing Ntilikina shut down opposing guards as a member of the Knicks might be numbered.
The team certainly hasn’t done much of anything to make fans feel otherwise. Fizdale has answered questions about Ntilikina’s continued absence by saying things like, “I don’t think they’re ready to unleash him yet,” which would be cool if he was one of the other players, but seeing as he’s the coach he should probably be able to give us something a little more concrete.
The wishy washy attitude of Fizdale when it comes to Frank’s return is just a little too reminiscent of the way in which he would talk about Porzingis prior to the KP trade. Maybe this is just PTSD speaking, but maybe it isn’t.
Berman noted in his report that Jason Kidd recently attended a Knicks practice and spent almost 20 minutes talking shop with Smith Jr. and Mudiay. Ntilikina, who was there and “exchanged greetings” with Kidd, one of the best point guards to ever play the game, did not huddle with Kidd, Smith Jr. and Mudiay.
“Ntilikina stood only 15 yards away — an afterthought,” Berman wrote. “He was said to be too busy rehabbing. Ntilikina only exchanged greetings with Kidd. The incident was another indicator Fizdale views Ntilikina as an off-the-ball wing player.”
Even if he’s going to be a wing player going forward, which he shouldn’t be, wouldn’t you want Ntilikina right there with Smith Jr. and Mudiay receiving some wisdom from the hall-of-famer? The answer is obviously yes, unless you’re anticipating that by next season Ntilikina will be an opponent.
There’s something fishy going on, and the longer Ntlikina’s groin injury keeps him out, the more it’s beginning to seem like we may have seen the last of Frank as a member of the Knicks. Some will argue that’s for the best, but Ntilikina has already shown the ability to be a lockdown defender, and if he can ever kick his offense into high gear, he’ll be a terrifying player to play against.
Unfortunately, that’s something the Knicks may very well experience if they do indeed kick him to the curb this offseason.