How Frank Ntilikina‘s development can flip the New York Knicks’ free agency plans on its head.
New York Knicks’ guard Frank Ntilikina is set to enter his second full season in the NBA. After an underwhelming rookie season, the Frenchman is expected to make a significant leap in his sophomore campaign.
How significant of a leap is something for fans to watch as the season progresses. With big fish on the horizon, could Ntilikina make the Knicks rethink their free agency plans this coming offseason?
The 2017 NBA rookie class may go down as one of the greatest in league history.
Boston and Utah discovered franchise altering players in Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell. Chicago and Dallas drafted potential all-stars in Lauri Markkanen and Dennis Smith Jr. Miami and Toronto placed young players who can contribute in playoff series in Bam Adebayo and OG Anunoby.
For the Knicks, Ntilikina’s role is still somewhat of a quagmire.
Ntilikina posted 5.9 points per game while shooting 41 percent from the field in 78 games last season. Despite playing elite perimeter defense, his offense was a eye sore at times.
As new Knicks head coach David Fizdale pointed out, it’s more Ntilikina’s lack of aggression that is the issue. During his news conference with the media earlier in the year, Newsday’s Al Iannazzone quoted Fizdale on Ntilikina’s aggression,
"“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.“He’s such an unselfish kid. He wants to please everyone.”"
While unselfish play is lauded in the NBA, Ntilikina is unselfish to a fault. Though he is coming from a offensive system that was predicated on ball movement and not individual scoring, as Ntilikina posted only 5.2 per game his final season, that way of playing is not efficient on a team like the Knicks due to the lack of playmakers on last year’s roster.
Is Ntilikina able to change his mindset after only one season in the NBA? His summer league tape may provide the answer to that question.
Yes, Ntilikina did this against players who will not see time in the NBA, however, the devil is in the details. In the game against the Utah Jazz, Ntilikina had 16 shot attempts. The most shots he attempted during the regular season was 12. Ntilikina recorded 10 games last season with more than 6 assists. By comparison, Lonzo Ball had 10 games of over 6 assists in the month of November alone.
For Ntilikina, he needs to convert the shots that he attempts at at higher rate. According to Swish 2.0, Ntilikina only converted 46 percent of the 120 shots he took inside the paint, and shot under 45 percent on “long 2-point shots”. These numbers are more comparable to a role player, then a starting point guard. The simple way for Ntilikina to have a better offensive game is to simply take more shots.
Most analysts compared Ntilikina to points guards such as Rajon Rondo and Ricky Rubio during the draft combine. Individuals with the ability to dominate the game without huge scoring outputs, however, there is another guard that Ntilikina shares similarities with.
During Jrue Holiday‘s rookie season he posted 8 points while putting up of 44 percent from the field, 39 percent from beyond the arc, and 77 percent from the free-throw line for the Philadelphia 76ers back in 2009-2010 season.
In his second season all his number saw significant improvement. This is due in part to Holiday attempting 479 more shots in his sophomore campaign.
Ntilikina took 500 shots during his rookie season. With Kristaps not expected to start the season, and a Courtney Lee trade potentially on the horizon, there are about 28 shots per game available in the beginning of the season. It would behoove the coaching staff of the Knicks to give some of the shots to Ntilikina.
While Knicks fans are twisting and turning at the thought of having two max players come to Gotham City, the reality is the Knicks are currently scheduled to have money for only one max player. The development of Ntilikina may not be the headline of the 2018-19 season; however, it will affect the mindset of the front offices for the offseason.