New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina has his best game as a pro

Frank Ntilikina, New York Knicks (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
Frank Ntilikina, New York Knicks (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images) /

New York Knicks’ guard Frank Ntilikina put on a show in the Knicks win over Dallas Friday night.

New York Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina had his best game as a pro in Friday night’s thrilling win over Kristaps Porzingis‘ Mavericks. The Knicks came out on top 106-102 in their first matchup with Dallas since the Porzingis trade last year.

The 21-year old is 6′ 6″ with a 7’ 1″ wingspan and came into the league as the eighth overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft as a project with extremely raw talent. The one aspect of Ntilikina’s game that people raved about was his defense.

Ntilikina is in his third year, and in his first two seasons, he has underperformed for someone who was a lottery pick. In his first two seasons, Ntilikina didn’t bring much to the table offensively, and in a league where guard play is so important, that wasn’t a good sign.

There were talks after an underwhelming rookie campaign that Ntilikina would end up being a bust after averaging just 5.9 PPG shooting 36.4% from the field and 31.8% from three along with 3.2 APG. His offensive struggles were a huge concern, but the bright side was his defense, which looked above average.

Many people thought Ntilikina would be able to take the next step and improve on the offensive end heading into year two. He ended his sophomore season statistically worse than his rookie year, averaging 5.7 PPG shooting 33.7% from the field and 28.7% from behind the arc. His APG average also dipped to just 2.8, but to be fair, Ntilikina did struggle with injuries playing in only 43 games in year two as opposed to 78 games in year one.

Now entering year three, I’ve been on record saying this might be his make or break season. After almost getting traded this past offseason, he needs to show that he can be a legitimate point guard in NBA – not just a defensive specialist.

If you’ve been watching the Knicks this season, you should be able to tell that Ntilikina looks much better. He seems to be shooting with confidence, he’s more aggressive both offensively and defensively, and he looks much more comfortable out there on the court.

In Friday night’s win, Ntilikina had his best game as a professional NBA player by far. In his fourth straight start this season, he logged 38 minutes totaling 14 points on 5-12 shooting while going 4-5 from three. He compiled six rebounds, four assists (to just ONE turnover), four steals, and three blocks. He stuffed the stat sheet and also almost gave New York a heart attack when he attempted to posterize Porzingis!

Like his offense, his defense was on another level too Friday night. Ntilikina was all over the place on the defensive end, although Luka Doncic finished with his fourth triple-double of the season, Ntilikina played hard, aggressive defense and made things difficult for him. He also defended the 7′ 3″ Porzingis very well at times too.

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In every game so far this season, Ntilikina has shown flashes of improvement, and that’s a great sign if you’re a Knicks fan. I’ve been a big Ntilikina defender since he got drafted by the Knicks, I’m not saying he’s on his way to stardom, but so far, you have to like what you’re seeing from him. Hopefully, Friday’s game was his breakout game, and that was just a tease of what’s to come in his career.