Another year, another disappointing draft day for New York Knicks fans.
When the Knicks selected Frank Ntilikina with the 8th pick, in the NBA Draft, fans weren’t as angry as they were when the Knicks selected Kristaps Porzingis two years ago, but their mixed reaction expressed disappointment among a large section of the fanbase.
Many of the Knicks contingent saw names such as Dennis Smith Jr. and Malik Monk still on the draft board, and with the turmoil currently surrounding the Knicks organization — especially after Phil Jackson confirmed he was taking calls to check the value of Porzingis — the last news fans wanted to hear was the Knicks drafting another Euro player.
Rightfully so, fans had a right to throw their ire at Jackson for drafting Ntilikina.
Throughout the week, Jackson has received more negative press from several sources who are close to the Knicks organization. Stephen A. Smith reported, on First Take, that Jackson doesn’t scout European prospects, and he had to be convinced by Clarence Gaines Jr. — who’s a talent evaluator on the Knicks staff — to draft Porzingis. In addition to the damning news that Jackson is half-asleep at the wheel as President of Basketball Operations, according to Jay Williams, on ESPN, Jackson was reportedly seen sleeping, literally, during one of the draft prospect’s workouts.
Hence, there’s no reason for fans to believe that Jackson did his due diligence in scouting Ntilikina, and due to Jackson’s stubbornness of forcing the triangle down the players throats, many believe that he drafted Ntilikina because he fits the triangle best rather than drafting Ntilikina because he’s the best talent available at the time.
Determining who’s the best talent available is subjective at best.
Even though Ntilikina doesn’t posses the athleticism of Smith Jr. or Monk, he already has a quality that very few players possess in today’s NBA — the mindset to play defense on every possession.
Standing at 6’5” with a 7’0” wingspan, he’s already tough to get around for most point guards in the NBA, and with his reach, and active hands, he has the ability to strip opposing guards and create turnovers.
Last season, the Knicks were ranked 23rd in steals (7.1), 25th in defensive rating (108.7), and 23rd in opponents points per game (108.0). More than anything, the Knicks need a player who can create easy basket opportunities from his defense, and Ntilikina definitely fits the bill.
Besides having the potential to be a beast on defense, Ntilikina has the offensive tools needed to make an impact.
Those who believe Ntilikina was only drafted to fit into the triangle offense will be sadly mistaken. While playing in the French LNB Pro A League, he showed his versatility on offense. His ability to lead the fast break proves he can play in an uptempo style of offense, and he has shown flashes of being able to run plays through half-court sets.
Unlike many young players entering the draft, he already has a solid basketball IQ, and he doesn’t depend strictly on his athleticism to make a difference.
Additionally, he can become a very solid three-point shooter, which is important in today’s NBA. At just 18 years old, he already has a smooth stroke, and he’s shooting a respectable 40% from the land of plenty. With some work in the gym, he can develop into a solid three-point shooter, which opposing players would have to account for on defense.
Also, it helps he has played professionally since the age of 16. He’s coming into the NBA with an already developed professional mindset, which will be crucial in his development down the line.
Overall, fans have to look at the bigger picture.
The Knicks are nowhere near competing for an NBA title in the era of LeBron James versus the Golden State Warriors. Most teams, including the Knicks, have to prepare for when father time catches up to James and for when the Warriors become vulnerable enough to be beaten. When that time comes, there’s a possibility Ntilikina will develop into a very solid two-way player, who has the best All-Star potential according to analytics by ESPN.
Ntilikina has played against competition that is one notch higher than the competition in college basketball, according to Fran Fraschilla — who’s one of the top Euro League scouts. Fans have to realize that European Leagues have made strides in recent years, and that’s why there’s a larger influx of European talent in the NBA.
Today isn’t the year 2000 when Vince Carter took the soul of Frederic Weis, a French player, in the Olympics.
Since then, European Leagues have produced a lot of good players in today’s NBA, including Porzingis who’s the future of the Knicks. Now, Ntilikina will join him on the journey to help breathe life back into a Knicks organization whose incompetence has been on display for the whole sports world to see.
Brace yourself Knicks fans.
Just like how Porzingis transformed your boos into cheers, there’s a good chance Ntilikina will make you do the same.
Ryan G. is also featured on iSportsWeb. Check out the original post here.