You Don’t Know Frank: New York’s Rookie is Ready for the Spotlight

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

You Don’t Know Frank: New York’s Rookie is Ready for the Spotlight


The New York Knicks have had spotty success over recent years with their first-round draft picks. From 2009-2013, New York selected Jordan Hill, Iman Shumpert, and Tim Hardaway Jr. as first-rounders, three players who had high hopes, but only became above-average role players at their best. Until their 2015 gamble with Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis more than paid off, New York fans never had full trust in the team to select a game changing piece. Their 2017 No. 8 overall selection of French guard Frank Ntilikina will either become a part of the Porzingis mold or a player who will be on his way out in a few seasons.

New York already had fans in doubt after they decided to pass up on two 19-year-old talented guards in Dennis Smith, Jr. and Malik Monk to go with the unknown option of Frank Ntilikina. But, you don’t know Frank. The 6’5” point guard with a 7’3” wingspan has a knack for defense, passing, and even a consistent outside shot, but his lack of exposure to NBA-caliber competition has prompted many to question if he can live up to the expectations.

Ntilikina’s success in France speaks volumes to his skill and becoming the point guard leader New York desperately needs. Twice being named the LNB Pro-A Best Young Player, he joined French NBA stars Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, and Boris Diaw as players with that honor. Ntilikina was spectacular in helping France’s Under-18 national team win the 2016 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship, scoring 31 points, including 7-for-10 from three-point range. He averaged 15.2 points, 4.5 assists, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.2 steals a game in the tournament, knocking down 50 percent of his field goal attempts, including 58.6 percent of his shots from long distance, leading to MVP honors.

At just 19-years-old, Frank Ntilikina is a project that will take time for the New York Knicks. Adjusting to the fast-paced, three-point shooting style of the current NBA will be first, then honing his skills each night is next. Veteran guards in Ramon Sessions and Jarrett Jack have been placed next to Ntilikina to show him the ins and outs of the position they’ve grown accustomed to for over ten years now. Though the starting spot is not a lock for the rookie, proving himself on the court, whether in practice or during games, will bring him much closer to securing the role.

With his size and wingspan, Ntilikina will be anticipating the passing lanes and a pest for steals all season long. In just one preseason game against Brooklyn before suffering a mild knee injury, Ntilikina logged 18 minutes off the bench, scoring five points and adding three assists, one rebound, and one steal to his line. Though he shot a horrid 1-for-7 from the floor, veteran guard Ramon Sessions liked what he saw and even compared Ntilikina to his former teammate and Boston Celtics superstar Kyrie Irving, according to Ian Begley of ESPN New York.

“He’s got a lot of Kyrie tendencies a little bit. He’s not the most athletic guy but he can handle the ball in tight spots, can finish around the rim. It’s still early on but he definitely gives me that Kyrie feel when Kyrie was a rookie.”

The fact that Frank Ntilikina has already gained respect from a veteran is a great sign. Will he become the superstar Irving became? Who knows. But even if the beginning of his career shapes like Irving’s, New York will have found another foreign gem.

It will be intriguing to focus on Ntilikina’s adjustments to the NBA game, his success as time moves forward, and how he will fare paired with Kristaps Porzingis. Hopefully, for Knicks fans, the same Frank Ntilikina who dominated in the 2016 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship will show up in his 2017-18 rookie campaign.


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