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
David Fizdale, New York Knicks. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /


As mentioned before, Frank is a defensive specialist who carries himself as a traditional pass-first point guard, while DSJ is a quick, explosive, shot creator who can cause havoc for defenses by the way he uses his speed with his scoring ability. With these two skill sets, Frank and DSJ can be the thunder and lightning at the point guard position to help lead the Knicks to success.

New York should stick with Frank as their starting point guard since Fizdale preaches defense as the main priority. According to NBA’s Advanced Statistics, Frank is averaging a 99.1 defensive rating while he is on the court, and once the is subbed out the defensive rating skyrockets to an abysmal 120. Keep in mind, according to NBA Team Statistics the best defensive rating in the league is held by the Utah Jazz at100.7, while the worst is held by the Golden State Warriors, which is 115.9. So it is imperative that Frank is on the court for the Knicks to stay competitive because their defense starts to unravel when he is not.

It has been more than noticeable that once the Knicks allow their opponents to get a substantial lead, they become frustrated and it causes certain players (Marcus Morris & Julius Randle) to play more isolation basketball to drag them out from the gutter, which is ineffective in today’s NBA. Even though the Knicks have demonstrated that they are more than capable of coming back from large deficits. The problem is that constantly have to dig themselves out of a hole starts to wear on a team.

So having Ntilikina in the starting lineup not only helps to keep opponents scoring at bey but also allows good ball movement to occur. Considering that the starting lineup is Ntilikina, Barrett, Morris, Randle, and Taj Gibson, keeping Frank in that lineup helps facilitate in getting the ball to RJ, Randle, and Morris since they do most of the scoring. Furthermore, inserting DSJ in that lineup would consist of to too many ball-dominant players between him, Morris, and Randle preventing fluid ball movement. This is why DSJ is better coming in with the second unit, which consists of Damyean Dotson, Kevin Knox, Bobby Portis, and Mitchell Robinson.

The Knicks offensive rating is 105.1 when Smith is on the court and drops to a stagnant 98.4 when he is off it. And just to make sure we are all on the same page, the Knicks are last in the NBA with an offensive rating of 103.2. The reason the offensive rating rises once DSJ is on the floor is due to his explosive skill set. He creates open shots for the rest of the second unit.

Dotson, Knox, and Portis are solid three-point shooters who are capable of knocking down open looks. The way that DSJ drives to the basket causes defenses to collapse on him, which then creates open perimeter shots.

Also, the way that Smith attacks the lane, the defender has to honor him, which opens up the pick and roll for Robinson to lay down the easy slams.

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Having Frank in the second unit lineup would prevent offensive opportunities from being created. Since Frank is not known for being aggressive on offense and is willing to defer to other shooters. Defenses can lay off him a bit and play the perimeter. Dotson, Knox, and Portis would have to create their own shots, which is not really what they are skilled at.

Dotson and Knox are more productive as set-shooters or scoring in transition, while Portis is better with his back against the basket in the post, or being a set shooter as well. So, it helps when there is an offensive-minded player like DSJ who is willing to score first.


It is funny how things unfold in the NBA. Frank and DSJ were tied so heavily as to which player the New York Knicks should draft as their future point guard. Instead of having one point guard that can, or is relied on to do it all (which is rare to find), there are two that can help lead this team to be successful in the future.

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This duo can be like Steph Curry & Shaun Livingston (Warriors) or Tony Parker & Patty Mills (Spurs). While they won’t become those players, the Warriors and Spurs duos are great examples of how two point guards can lead their teams to success.