New York Knicks: Should Frank Ntilikina base his game off a former Knick?

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

With the New York Knicks’ season just about to start up, the team is still left with a question mark at the point guard position. Though, Frank Ntilikina did show some promise with his clutch performance against the Atlanta Hawks in the fourth quarter. 

Frank Ntilikina had an interesting summer away from the New York Knicks where he showed an increase in confidence and poise playing for Team France in the FIBA World Cup. The team seems to believe in his potential still with both his, Dennis Smith Jr.‘s and Kevin Knox‘s contracts being exercised. The French guard’s offense has shown glimpses, but the only question is whether that will translate back to the NBA.

In Ntilikina’s start against the Hawks, he showed that he doesn’t need to define his game on the number of shots taken or his overall contributions on the offensive side yet; his clutch forced turnovers and his defense on Trae Young in the fourth quarter showed how he can contribute moving forward. Whether he starts at some point this season or not, it may be wise to see his contributions in the same way a former Knick commanded the floor and pestered offenses.

Back when the Knicks actually looked like a title contender with a perennial MVP candidate in Carmelo Anthony, a defensive anchor in Tyson Chandler, and a very deep roster overall, the Knicks had something special at their backup point guard spot.

Usually you would look back and remember the backcourt comprising of Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, but behind those two was the oldest NBA rookie in history, Pablo Prigioni.

Prigioni came to the Knicks to be a veteran presence after playing most of his career overseas and proving to be a winner with his numerous FIBA medals, and an Olympic Bronze in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

The former Knick displayed his dominance, not with his stat sheet, but everything outside of it. Shot selection, basketball IQ, court vision, and pestering defense were among the intangibles that made Prigioni a fan favorite and the Knicks’ starting point guard towards the end of the 2012-13 season and in the same year’s playoff run.

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What Prigioni did for the Knicks is similar to what Ntilikina could provide, and then some, in the future. We see similarities in both players with their full-court press tendencies, and their pass-first mentalities, but it is important to note each other’s age starting out in the league.

The Spanish Olympic medalist started out for the Knicks at the age of 35, while Ntilikina’s rookie season had him at 19, and one of the youngest players at the time. Ntilikina and his game have a place in the NBA, and can easily be a strong piece to a contender if we see Prigioni-type shooting percentages. The number of shots does not need to be high, but the quality of shot selection and movement off the ball will dictate Ntilikina’s future offensive game.

Pair all that with his mostly polished defense, and you could have a fan favorite in the making. Granted, fans loved Prigioni as he came out of nowhere, while Ntilikina was a lottery pick. If fans can get over the hate of Ntilikina’s below-average points contribution, and understand that his defense alone could dictate games (especially with his play against the Atlanta Hawks), we can see that we might have something special.

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The New York are in no shape to rush the process being one of the youngest teams in the NBA. Their goal still needs to remain developing the young players and putting them in situations most efficient to their style of play. If Ntilikina turns out to play a role similar to Prigioni years ago, I would count that as a success.