Drafted just three years ago in 2017, Frank Ntilikina is the longest-serving player on the New York Knicks roster, along with Damyean Dotson, who was drafted the same year.
It hasn’t been an easy ride for Ntilikina since he was selected as the eighth pick by former team president Phil Jackson who mostly enlisted the guard to execute the offensive triangle.
Three years later, and now Ntilikina will play with her fourth manager in as many years. Ntilikina had to face some problems to achieve consistent playing time and has been injured in the past as well, making his first three seasons only unsatisfactory.
As a player, it’s no secret what Ntilikina can deliver. He is a defensive first guard who doesn’t mind facing the best player on the opposing team. While defense is his calling card, the offensive ending has been an adjustment for Ntilikina since he entered the league.
The main blow to Ntilikina’s game during his time in New York is his lack of aggression in attack. Although Ntilikina made great strides last season, showing some flashes of productivity, such as scoring a career high of 20 points, not much has changed overall.
Ntilikina shot 32% three-pointers and had a 39% field goal percentage, which are improvements over his first two seasons, but shot numbers obviously still have to work.
Both his scored and attempted field goals were relatively close in his first three seasons. In his rookie year, Ntilikina scored 2.3 out of 6.4 field goals attempted. In his second season, Ntilikina scored 2.2 of the 6.6 field goals attempted. Last season, Ntilikina scored 2.3 out of 5.8 attempted field goals.
While lack of aggression is a problem, it’s not a problem that can’t be solved. A player like Ntilikina doesn’t need the ball in his hands anyway, as it will likely be used more off the ball, especially since the Knicks will likely draw a point guard.
Ntilikina doesn’t have to attempt 10 to 15 hits each game to be useful or to please critics. The main frustration in watching Ntilikina play is when she gives up on achievable shots.
Whether it’s a jump shot or not shooting on a break, Ntilikina has a tendency to be passive. If Ntilikina were not overly passive and improved his percentage by three points, he would be a valuable 3-D player.
The fan base may not be happy with Ntilikina’s ceiling as a former lottery win, but that’s just plain realistic.
With the hiring of new manager Tom Thibodeau, this can potentially shift the young guard’s trajectory upwards.
Ntilikina has never had a coach who completely trusted him. With Thibodeau now here, he can make a good impression, as Thibodeau is known as a defensive-minded manager who was a key contributor to the Celtics’ victory in the 2008 NBA championship, and also Kevin Garnett who won Defensive Player of the Year that same year.
If Ntilikina builds a solid foundation with Thibodeau, it is likely that Ntilikina will thrive in whatever role he is assigned, be it in the starting lineup or second unit. So much so that his offense can improve because Thibs will instill that confidence.