When the Knicks drafted Frank Ntilikina out of France, the idea was to develop him as a big point guard (remember, Phil Jackson was still in charge there at the time and he loves big point guards). Over the course of the season, Ntilikina has played 84 percent of his minutes at the point.
However, in the past month the Knicks are giving Ntilikina a much longer look at the two guard slot. They went out and got more traditional point guards Trey Burke and Emmanuel Mudiay, and have played Ntilikina with them off the ball a lot more. Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News breaks it down.
Ntilikina’s minutes are up since the All-Star break but his assists are way down, a product of him playing off the ball while Burke and Mudiay act as the primary ballhandlers….
As scouts have noted for months, Ntilikina isn’t quick enough with his dribble to play point guard in the NBA — at least not at this stage of his development. It hinders his playmaking abilities. On defense, Ntilikina’s length allows him to defend shooting guards — leaving Jeff Hornacek with the option to play the Frenchman alongside Burke or Mudiay.
This is a good thing to look at. On the season, Ntilikina has taken 41 percent of his shot attempts as the pick-and-roll ball handler and shot just 38.6 percent on them. Add his passes out of the pick-and-roll into it and the Knicks score just 0.84 points per 100 possessions, well below the league average. It hasn’t worked and he’s shown some mild improvement but not much over the course of the season. (Stats via Synergy Sports)
However, Ntilikina has been reasonably good on spot-up looks, scoring almost a point per possession that way. He may fit more into the mold of the better modern two-guards — good spot-up shooters who can put the ball on the floor and create a little, and who are good defenders on the other end. Ntilikina is not there yet, he has a lot of development still to go, but that may be his path.
As they should do this time of year, the Knicks are trying to figure out what exactly they have in their lottery pick Ntilikina and where he fits in. If that helps improve their draft position, so be it, but this is what the Knicks should do at this point.