New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale is encouraging Frank Ntilikina to be more aggressive when he has the ball in his hands.
New York Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina had one of the more polarizing rookie seasons in recent franchise history. He was a dominant force on the defensive end of the floor, but proved tentative and reluctant to shoot on offense.
As head coach David Fizdale works with Ntilikina in a group setting, he’s encouraging the 6’5″ anomaly to be more aggressive with the ball in his hands.
Ntilikina ranked No. 1 in the NBA in points allowed per pick and roll possession, which lends credence to the belief that he is—or can be—an elite defender. He also shot 36.4 percent from the field, however, which is more a product of hesitation than inability.
According to Al Iannazzone of Newsday, Fizdale believes that Ntilikina has the tools to be successful, but only if he limits the level of unselfishness he plays with.
"“He’s a good basketball player,” Fizdale said. “It’s going to be a process with him of constantly emphasizing aggression and always be in ‘go’ mode and don’t be concerned as much about taking care of everybody and that his aggression will draw defenders to help him take care of everybody.”"
Thankfully, Ntilikina is already processing what Fizdale is telling him and understanding the importance of driving the lane.
"“I’m going to keep working every day and keep building on it. He wants me to be aggressive. He wants me to think a little bit about me going to the basket and opening up more things for my teammates.”"
Whether he’s driving and dishing or going all the way to the rim, Ntilikina has too much of a size advantage to not be aggressive with the ball in his hands.
Ntilikina stands at 6’5″ with a 7’0″ wingspan, which gives him a unique advantage over the average guard. It even enables him to drive into traffic and finish against bigs, as he has a craftiness to his game that’s waiting to be emphasized.
With Fizdale’s coaching, it stands to reason that Ntilikina can improve dramatically as a finisher before the 2018-19 season, when he’ll be encouraged to seek out his own shot.
As far as his playmaking is concerned, it will become significantly easier for Ntilikina to create for others if he can collapse opposing defenses.
Ntilikina has the court vision to be a productive distributor, but he too often makes the early pass to the first open man. By making it a point to drive when the paint is open, Ntilikina will inevitably be presented with the opportunity to hit shooters and slashers alike.
Thankfully, Fizdale understands that breaking habits requires consistent reassurance and encouragement, especially with an up-and-coming player.
If Frank Ntilikina takes David Fizdale’s advice, his second season with the New York Knicks should be one with clear signs of improvement.