Knicks: How Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. can coexist

Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina, New York Knicks. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina, New York Knicks. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /
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New York Knicks
Frank Ntilikina, New York Knicks (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images) /

Frank Ntilikina

The 2017 eighth overall draft pick is finally getting a chance to prove that he belongs in the NBA. Ntilikina is finally getting the shot that he deserves after being tied to the bench for the first two years of his career, due to several factors working against him. He was considered a “project” before when he was drafted His head coaches Jeff Hornacek then David Fizdale weren’t ready to put their trust in him. Finally, Ntilikina dealt with a groin injury that kept him sidelined for most of his sophomore year.

Frank brings a calm, cool, presence while he is on the court. He carries himself as a traditional pass-first point guard that looks to get his teammates involved early before he calls his own number to score. However, Ntilikina’s claim-to-fame is that he is a defensive specialist. It’s hard to beat his combination of intelligence, height, length, and quickness.

Before entering the draft, teams were intrigued by his traditional point guard play and defensive ability while performing for the SIG Strasbourg (a French “Pro A” League team). Frank demonstrated at a young age that he had an understanding of organizing the offense while maintaining ball movement, and understanding defensive assignments and positioning. The issue at the time was that he was still developing and extremely timid on the court.

Fast forward to now, Frank is proving why he was considered a project and needed time to develop his game. At the beginning of this season, it looked like Frank was doomed again to be at the bottom of the point guard depth chart after his two costly turnovers against the San Antonio Spurs on opening night.

This seemed to have left the door wide open for DSJ and Peyton to run away with the job. However, due to the older member injuring his hamstring early in the season and the death of DSJ’s stepmother, Fizdale was left with no other option but to start playing Franky Smokes as his point guard. And the result is that it has been wonderful watching him play (even though Fizdale tried to start RJ Barrett at point guard over Frank, which still boggles my mind).

According to ESPN (prior to the second meeting with the Spurs), over the last ten games Ntilikina has averaged 6.0 points, 44.6 percent from the field, 40 3 percent from long distance, 71.4 percent of free throws, 2.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals. These numbers are not eye-popping, but for Ntilikina, this is a great leap. Just with the eye test alone, you can see that he is starting to get more comfortable on the court.