-By: Dylan Horgan
With all of the hype surrounding Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson the last few weeks, it’s easy to forget about the Knicks’ most quietly interesting prospect: Frank Ntilikina. “Interesting”, of course, is different than “best”. While Frank probably doesn’t have Knox’s cold-blooded scoring instincts or Porzingis’ potential for two-way dominance, he has always fascinated me as a versatile talent still searching for his ideal role. Is he a point guard? Is he a shooting guard? Hell, after a few years in the gym he’ll be the same size as Andre Iguodala, maybe you could play him at small forward. Regardless of his role however, the main thing I want to see from Frank this year is more aggressiveness on the offensive end.
You know what I’m talking about. If you watched Knicks games last year, you remember Frank rejecting wide open layups to pass out for corner threes. You remember Frank forcing the ball back to his teammate in the pick and roll, never even looking at the basket to score. And in his first Summer League Game, we saw a lot of the same bad habits. Seemingly unable or unwilling to attack the basket while being guarded by Trae Young, a human traffic cone, it was easy to lose faith in Frank playing the point guard at all in the big league.
In game two, however, we saw a very different player.
The box score certainly suggests that Frank played better in game two, but even more encouraging was the way he was getting his stats (17 points, 6 rebounds). It was if he suddenly looked up and realized, “Huh. I’m way bigger than everybody guarding me.”
Frank made life difficult for 6’2” Jairus Lyles, physically overpowering him to get to the rim or just shooting right over him on turnaround jumpers. While most NBA teams are inching closer and closer to a positionless style of basketball, the guy with the ball in his hands most of the time is still usually 6’3” or smaller. This kind of physical advantage would exist for Frank against nearly every team, it’s really just up to him to use his size aggressively.
We also got to see some more of Frank’s burgeoning floater skills, another useful tool when you’re taller and longer than most people guarding you.
Fizdale talked about getting Frank to be more aggressive in his sideline interview, so we know it’s a priority of the coaching staff. Coach has been frequently praised for his development of young guys, so expect to see more of an attacking style from Ntilikina next season. The next step for him will be to rediscover the off-the-dribble shooting ability he showed at the amateur level. Still only 19, there’s still time for Frank to become the Jrue Holiday-type player he was reputed to be coming out of France.