The Frank Question: what the Knicks should consider doing with Frank Ntilikina
Last year in the offseason, the New York Knicks had the eighth overall pick in the draft. At the time, Phil Jackson was still the President of Basketball operations and the team was intertwined in the ensuing drama of Carmelo Anthony. The team drafted Frank Ntilikina, a lengthy, defensive savvy point guard out of France. One year later, Ntilikina’s name is not found amongst the top rookies of his class, save for a singular vote for the All-rookie second team. He spent most of the 2017-2018 NBA season coming off the bench, churning out 5.9 points per game as well as 3.2 assists. Now, New York holds the 9th overall pick in the draft and is looking to make improvements before next season. Over the course of the summer, the Knicks need to ask themselves one question: what to do with Frank Ntilikina? The Knicks have four realistic options.
Option 1: Play Ntilikina as a Shooting Guard
The Knicks can obtain a top rated point guard in the draft such as Trae Young or Collin Sexton. If the Knicks end up drafting such a player, they can simply move Ntilikina to shooting guard. However, such a move would force the Knicks to play small ball. Tim Hardaway Jr. would presumably be moved to small forward and Michael Beasley would be tapped to play the power forward while Kristaps Porzingis recovers from his ACL injury. Enes Kanter would be the only true big man in the starting rotation, which may cause the Knicks to suffer in the rebounding department. Since rebounding was one New York’s only saving graces during the regular season, the team may not be so willing to give that up.
Option 2: Don’t draft a Point Guard
The Knicks do not have to draft a point guard. The team is free to select whoever they see fit. In fact, Scott Perry, New York’s General Manager, said they the team will choose the best player available come the ninth selection. Additionally, the team has no shortage of floor generals in its ranks. Along with Ntilikina the Knicks have Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay, Ron Baker, and Jarett Jack. The problem with all of those players is that they were inconsistent. The Knicks need more than a scoring berth every now and again when it comes to who they choose to be their point guard. The Knicks may not necessarily need another point guard, but they definitely need a reliable one.
Option 3: Keep Ntilikina on the bench
The Knicks could still draft a point guard and simply have Ntilikina come off the bench again. The problem with that plan runs back into the fact that the Knicks aren’t lacking point guards. Regardless which names make it to the roster next season, there will be a fight for minutes. Coach David Fizdale may be poised to play Mudiay or Burke over Ntilikina if the teams need offense. Lack of playing time may lead to frustration on the part of Ntilikina. Leaving Ntilikina to collect dust on the bench may lead to another Willy Hernangomez situation.
Option 4: Trade Him
The fact of the matter is that Ntilikina is young, lengthy, and defensive minded. What he lacks in offensive bravado he could make up in defensive presence. If the Knicks had another superstar on the team that could draw attention, that would be one thing. However, they simply don’t. When Porzingis went down in February, no one on the current roster was able to step up for this team. Simply put, the Knicks are full of rag tag players and this team is badly in need of another star. Acquiring another top tier talent may require creating a trade package that includes Ntilikina. Should a team like the Portland Trailblazers, Washington Wizards, or Toronto Raptors be willing to part with one of their stars, the Knicks should not hesitate to make a deal that involves Ntilikina.
Frank Ntilikina is not valueless. He is young and smart with the potential to make a splash in this league. The other side of that coin is that Ntilikina’s name is spoken in the same breath as Iman Shumpert and Greg Oden. The Knicks need to weigh that coin very heavily and decide how they want to proceed into next year. The team’s season may just depend on it.