The playoffs are in full swing, which means the Knicks have been in offseason mode for quite some time now, and Frank Ntilikina has apparently spent much of the downtime getting swole as he prepares for his fourth NBA season.
Ntilikina was a scrawny, 6’5” 18-year-old kid when the Knicks drafted him with the 8th overall pick in 2017. Though he was described as a long-term project, the early part of his first season featured some magic in the form of a remarkable stretch of basketball from Kristaps Porzingis that led to some big wins and may have contributed to prematurely heightened expectations for the Frenchman.
Ntilikina has been plagued by a lack of playing time due to inconsistency and various injuries over the course of his first three seasons. His shooting and counting statistics have been subpar. Thankfully, the Knicks still picked up his option for the 2020-21 campaign, meaning that if the team doesn’t extend his contract at some point before the end of next year, he’ll become a restricted free agent.
As a restricted free agent, Frank would have the right to sign an offer sheet anywhere, but the Knicks would have the right to match any offer in order to retain him. If you’re getting deja vu from the idea of another team signing one of New York’s restricted free agents to a huge offer sheet, it might be because that’s how the Houston Rockets were able to nab Jeremy Lin in the first offseason after Linsanity.
There’s plenty of discussion to be had concerning whether or not the Knicks will look to lock Ntilikina up before he hits free agency, but that’s another talk for a different day. This whole intro has been one big prologue to the main point of the post. Frank is no longer a fresh-faced teenager coming to the ball with the big boys. He’s 22 now, and he looks jacked.
Clearly, Ntilikina has been hitting the gym this offseason. Maybe he’s been watching the bubble and realizing the postseason is not for lightweights.
Robert Covington ran straight into Anthony Davis’ elbow pic.twitter.com/iSpxkMen3I— Riley Michel (@rileymichel) September 9, 2020
Unfortunately, it’s going to be awhile before Ntilikina plays any meaningful basketball with the Knicks. But when the team does get back to business, he’ll have a defensive-minded coach who might appreciate both the intangibles Frank can provide and the potential he clearly has.
Marcus Smart over his first two NBA seasons:— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) September 9, 2020
FG percentage: 35.7%
3-point percentage: 29.6%
FT percentage: 72.0%
Assists per game: 3.1
Frank Ntilikina over his first two NBA seasons:
FG percentage: 35.4%
3-point percentage: 30.5%
FT percentage: 73.5%
Assists per game: 3.1 https://t.co/To0jXSsn4D
Perhaps the extra strength will give Ntilikina the confidence to jump start next season with the fervor he finished this one; over the last five games of the year, Ntilikina averaged 9 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal per game while shooting an identical 43% from both the field and three-point line and 83% from the free throw line, including an impressive 20-point, 10-assist, 2-steal performance in a loss to the Washington Wizards.
There’s still time for Frank’s future to be filled with big things, beginning with his own muscles.