New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina’s season ends, and the questions begin

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

After re-aggravating his groin injury, the New York Knicks have recommended to shut down Frank Ntilikina for the rest of the season.

On March 24, Frank Ntilikina left the New York Knicks’ loss to the Los Angeles Clippers with a re-aggravated groin injury. He just returned from a two-month absence, two games earlier, due to this same ailment.

After a re-evaluation, the Knicks announced Friday that Ntilikina indeed strained his groin muscle against the Clippers. However, the team’s medical staff recommended him to miss the rest of the season, which has just seven games left.

It capped a disappointing season for Ntilikina, who finished with just 5.7 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 33.7 percent shooting and 28.7 percent on three-pointers in 43 games and 16 starts. Aside from the start total, each statistic dropped from his freshman to sophomore campaign.

Only 10 of those appearances happened after the calendar turned to 2019. It started with an ankle injury on Jan. 4, which he returned from on Jan. 13. On the 27th, the Frenchman hurt his groin and fell from there.

There were absences via coach’s decision, as well, earlier this season. Head coach David Fizdale benched him on two stints after ineffective shooting performances, including scoreless nights.

Now, Ntilikina’s future comes into question, as he may have played his final game for the Knicks. Marc Berman of the New York Post previously reported the 20 year-old guard is a candidate to move around June’s draft.

As Forbes’ Tommy Beer noted, keeping Ntilikina has upside, if they Knicks sign big names like Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving.

Ntilikina can work around these players and play to his strengths, rather than a forced offensive development that never worked in the first half of the season. While he may not live up to lottery expectations in this role, finding his strong suit is logical to ensure his value reaches its highest level.

Then, with a versatile defender, the Knicks can lock Ntilikina on the Eastern Conference’s wings and shuffle him in both small-ball and tall lineups for 15-to-20 minutes per game.

Fizdale tried to peel aggressiveness off Ntiklina earlier this season and make him a two-way talent, as’s Chris Iseman noted. It worked in spurts, featuring an 18-point game on Dec. 9, but did not last, as the former eighth overall pick had just two double-digit point nights afterward.

"“He’s shown flashes this year,” Fizdale said. “But I think he finally just, you know, said ‘screw it.’ He stopped worrying about if he misses a shot or what people think. He just went out there and attacked. Like I told him, when you get your chance again, stop thinking. I don’t want you thinking, just going out there attacking and playing.”"

This happened after the first benching.

The Knicks even gave Ntilikina the green light after the ankle and before the groin injury. He took 46 shot attempts across a six-game span, but made just 30.4 percent of them. The effort existed, although nothing fell for him.

Upon return, Ntilikina had just one full game to display offensive prowess. On just 1-for-6 shooting, it left continued the disappointing results.

Ntilikina might have to take steps forward in another uniform, which ends his New York Knicks career after just 121 games. He is too young to forfeit as a long-term NBA player, but as part of the Phil Jackson regime, this might just continue the process of shuffling those players out, despite an inexpensive $4.85 million salary towards the 2019-20 cap.

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It might be Ntilikina’s best route at this point. A new organization provides fresh expectations, and as what happened with Markelle Fultz‘s move to Orlando, it will remove him from the public eye to continue developing.