When they selected him using the No. 8 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, the New York Knicks thought that Frank Ntilikina would be their point guard of the future. Unfortunately, since he set foot in the NBA, Ntilikina has failed to live up to expectations from a lottery pick. In his first two seasons with the Knicks, the 20-year-old point guard only averaged 5.7 points and 2.8 assists, and 33.7 percent shooting from the field and 28.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
In an interview with Marc Berman of the New York Post, Frank Ntilikina revealed that he’s already completely recovered from the groin injury he suffered last season. Despite going through lots of downs in his first seasons as an NBA player, Ntilikina remains very optimistic about his future with the Knicks.
“I’m happy to be a Knick,” Ntilikina said. “I still take as much as I can get from every situation. I’m still in a Knick jersey. I’m happy to be here. I work very hard to make this situation successful.”
Frank Ntilikina is currently in a more complicated situation, as he will be needing to battle for playing time in the Knicks’ backcourt. Aside from Ntilikina, the Knicks have added two starting-caliber point guards on their roster. The team acquired Dennis Smith Jr. in the blockbuster deal with the Dallas Mavericks before the February NBA trade deadline and signed Elfrid Payton in the 2019 NBA free agency. As of now, there’s no doubt that Smith Jr. and Payton are much better point guards than Ntilikina.
If Smith and Payton will be the ones receiving more playing time at the point guard position, there is still a chance for Ntilikina to play a significant role with the Knicks next season. As Berman noted, Knicks head coach David Fizdale sees Ntilikina more as an “off guard” than a ball-handler. Unfortunately, the Knicks also have a logjam at the shooting guard position, especially with the recent acquisitions of Reggie Bullock and Wayne Ellington in the 2019 NBA free agency.
It’s definitely a good thing to see Ntilikina staying positive despite all the things that happened in the last two seasons. However, he will be needing to show a massive improvement with his performance if he really wants to remain a Knick. As of now, Ntilikina is working with the Knicks’ coaching staff to address some of his weaknesses and further develop his strengths on the court.
“It’s been going great,” Ntilikina said. “I’m happy about it. I’m trying to get rhythm. I’m working a lot and happy where I am right now. [I’m working on] everything — my body, how I handle the ball and being where I’m comfortable moving around with the ball and without. I’ll do everything to try to be successful.”
The Knicks tried to move Ntilikina before the February NBA trade deadline, and it won’t be a surprise if they consider trading him again in the offseason. However, with his recent performance and health issues, it is less likely that the Knicks will be receiving a decent return for the French point guard.