With the NBA Draft fast approaching, the New York Knicks have been linked to numerous draft prospects, ranging from players who are exceptional on offense — like Dennis Smith Jr. — to players who have the competitive fire to make an impact on defense — like Donovan Mitchell.
As of now, it remains to be seen what moves Phil Jackson will make to change the roster; therefore, it’s difficult to pinpoint which prospect intrigues the Zen Master the most. Will Jackson go for a player who will shoot first, then ask questions later, or will he opt for a player whose mindset is to lock down the opposition?
It’s clear to anyone, with an ounce of basketball knowledge, the Knicks desperately need a player who will be a pit bull on defense. A player whose mentality is to raise hell on the defensive side of the ball to help create offense for the team.
Last season, the Knicks gave up a staggering 108.0 points per game, which was 23rd in the NBA, and according to NBA.com, the Knicks finished 25th in defensive rating. These are the kind of defensive statistics that’ll make former Knicks greats roll in their grave.
There was a time when teams used to shiver in fear when they entered the legendary confines of Madison Square Garden. Nowadays, teams stroll into the Garden, without a care in the world, knowing the probability of the game being a cake-walk for them is high.
In today’s NBA, replicating the ruggedness of former Knicks teams from the 80s and 90s isn’t possible, but what Jackson can do is add pieces to the roster that will help transform the team to have a more defensive mindset. Adding players who show effort on defense will encourage other players, who lack the motivation to defend, to want to put a ball and chain on their opponents.
Eventually, this change in mindset will help the Knicks to become formidable, and opponents will, once again, dread coming to the Mecca of Basketball.
Hence, it’s imperative that Jackson drafts a player with huge defensive upside, and that player is Frank Ntilikina.
According to DraftExpress, Ntilikina’s main strength is his defense. At 6’5”, with his almost 7’0” wingspan, he can defend multiple positions and raise havoc on the defensive side of the ball. He’s already a great on-ball defender, for an 18-year old, and he does a good job getting over screens, which is something Derrick Rose failed to do on multiple occasions last season. His length makes it difficult for opposing guards to shoot over him, or to make passes, and his active hands on defense gives him the ability to create turnovers.
Defensively, Ntilikina is the kind of player the Knicks need — especially since the NBA is a guard driven league. Having a player who can silence opposing guards can be the difference between winning or losing tightly contested games.
Watching highlights of Ntilikina’s defensive prowess will enamor the most pessimistic fan, but his offensive deficiencies can’t be ignored. His handle is loose for a point guard, which makes him prone to turn the ball over if pressured, and he still needs improvement in creating offense for others in the half-court. Also, he doesn’t have the burst to beat athletes off the dribble, and because of his slight frame, he avoids contact and has trouble finishing at the rim over length.
While his offensive deficiencies are concerning, he does have offensive strengths which will appeal to both Jackson and coach Jeff Hornacek. His improved shooting from the perimeter will capture the intrigue of Jackson who likes big point guards who can shoot, and his ability to push the ball in transition will capture the interest of Hornacek who loves to run an uptempo offense.
Ntilikina’s strengths would be a perfect fit for the Knicks, and even though there’s a lot of turmoil within the organization, Ntilikina can grow in New York because Hornacek is known for coaching up point guards. Last season, under Hornacek’s tutelage, Ron Baker showed good improvement in his point guard play, and Hornacek helped Goran Dragic to become one of the better point guards in the league during his time coaching the Phoenix Suns.
The New York Knicks and Ntilikina seems like a match made in heaven, but with Jackson making the call, who knows which direction he’ll go when Adam Silver goes up to the podium and says: “With the eighth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select…”
Ryan G. is also featured on iSportsWeb. Check out the original post here.