New York Knicks (Photo by Matteo Marchi/NBAE via Getty Images)
4. Wednesday, January 30 vs. Dallas Mavericks
Fair or not, when Phil Jackson and the front office decided to select Frank Ntilikina over Dennis Smith Jr. in the 2017 NBA Draft, the two guards became linked for what will most likely be the rest of their careers.
The New York front office decided to take the lengthy playmaker in Ntilikina over the uber-athletic scorer in Dennis Smith Jr., a move that was criticized at times by various personnel from around the League.
Smith Jr. ended up being selected by the Dallas Mavericks with the very next pick and had a solid rookie year. He averaged 15.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 5.2 assists.
Thus far, it is impossible to judge whether or not the Knicks made a mistake passing on Smith Jr. for Ntilikina last summer. Ntilikina’s averages were lower, but he is younger than DSJ, played fewer minutes, had the ball less, and was already known to be more of a project than Dennis Smith Jr. was coming out of college.
In their two matchups last year, Smith averaged 14.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Ntilikina averaged 5.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists.
After a Summer League consisting of perhaps his best showing as an NBA player, expectations are high for Ntilikina to take a leap in the coming year.
The young guard impressed as a lengthy defender last season, but will look to make tremendous strides at the offensive end to prove he can be a lead guard in New York.
As the two will be indubitably linked for the rest of their careers, it should be interesting to see how the two match up against each other after their first summer as NBA players.