Knicks: Does Tom Thibodeau have big plans for Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina?

NY Knicks, Frank Ntilikina (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NY Knicks, Frank Ntilikina (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

Can Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina prove their value to the Knicks this season?

As the New York Knicks patiently wait for the offseason to begin – with the 2020 NBA Draft and free agency expected to be pushed back to mid-November – a top priority remains to improve their point guard position. However, it’s possible that Tom Thibodeau might find some value out of the guards already on the roster.

A report surfaced last week that Thibodeau was “enamored” with Dennis Smith Jr. when he was coming out of college in 2018, something that has since been characterized as “continued belief” in the young guard who struggled during his first full season with the Knicks.

New York has two point guards from the 2018 draft entering the final season of their rookie scale contracts. In addition to Smith, Frank Ntilikina will try to make his case for a second contract in New York next season. According to Jonathan Macri of Knicks Film School, the French guard is currently “penciled in as the starter,” something Macri admits can change based on how the roster is reworked this offseason.

"“Frank Ntilikina, I’m told, is currently penciled in as the starter, although that can – and if I had to guess probably will – change once they tinker with the roster,” Macri wrote in his newsletter on Friday. “I’m also told that reports of Thibs’ continued belief in DSJ are absolutely legit. How much faith does he have, and how willing is he to put New York’s fate in someone who was quite awful last season? Your guess is as good as mine.”"

The Knicks have been linked to Oklahoma City point guard Chris Paul as a potential trade partner in recent days.

While it’s entirely plausible that neither Smith nor Ntilikina become key pieces for the Knicks under team president Leon Rose, there at least appears to be some intrigue from their recently-hired veteran coach. Perhaps under Thibodeau’s tutelage, the Knicks can turn one (if not both) of the players into valuable assets this season.

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The hard-working coach will get his first chance to mold their games during informal workouts in New York, which are set to begin next week. The Knicks have been sidelined since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The league is allowing teams left out of the Orlando bubble an opportunity to perform limited team activities as an olive branch for keeping them off the court for so long.