A New Horizon for Frank Ntilikina post FIBA?
Over the last two seasons, the Knicks have changed, morphed, and altered their rotation at least half a dozen times. Finding himself in and out of the starting line-up was Frank Ntilikina. The 21-year-old, French point guard was taken eighth overall in the 2017 draft. The team drafted him with high expectations. On the cusp of his third season with the team, the franchise is still waiting for Ntilikina to make a splash. The lack of improvement has caused some fans to call for Ntilikina’s trade. In the interim between a disappointing second season and the beginning of next season, Ntilikina joined his home country in the FIBA World Tournament where he managed to turn some heads. In light of his performance, the question is if Ntilikina will finally be able to elevate his game when he rejoins New York in October?
Let’s go France
Ntilikina came ready to represent, averaging eight points a game, hitting a personal tournament high of 16 points against Argentina. Drawing praise from his teammates and coaches, Ntilikina made the most of his time overseas. While his numbers were far from historic, they were a solid comparison to the likes of Jason Tatum (10.6 points per game) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (14.8 points per game). On top of his personal achievements, the young, French player managed to help his team place third in the tournament. The long-lasting impact of Ntilikina’s experience could eventually come to fruition. However, there’s an argument that this may be the boost that Ntilikina needs.
A New Outlook
Simply put, winning changes everything, especially when one of those wins is against Team USA. When France beat the US, 89 to 79, Ntilikina dished out 11 points to help get the job done. No, he was not the player of the game, but beating his American counterparts could be just the drive he needs. Sure, he won’t have his French teammates when he gets back to New York, but he will have the squad he helped build over the last two years. Having gotten far in the tournament could give Ntilikina the outlook he’s always needed. Since he arrived in New York, all he has known is losing: losing games, losing fellow players, and losing the starting position. It has been a never-ending parade of terribles on his short lived career that he is likely tired of. No one wants to lose that much. However, having gotten just a taste of winning, Ntilikina may return to the NBA hungrier than ever.
Renewing of Mind
Lacking skill has never been Ntilikina’s issue. He can play defense, he can pass, he can rebound, and he can shoot. The problem is that he never allowed himself to get to a place where he could consistently use his skills at a high level. For years he’s been likened to Kobe Bryant and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the sense that they struggled their first few seasons as well. After his time with France, Ntilikina may come back with the confidence he’s been missing. The reality of the matter is that he helped beat the very players that will oppose him for a championship. With the Knicks in a wayward place, Ntilikina could very well help the team get into a position where they are seriously contending. If he has finally taken the steps to have a winning mindset, he may be able to do it.
Ntilikina’s time with France may not be a prophecy of what’s to come, but rather instructive on what could be. He has gotten a taste of winning, and for New York’s sake, he hopefully likes it. In a season where the Knicks will be looking for an identity, Ntilikina could emerge as a potential spark and leader.