Deep Dive on Frank Ntilikina
By Rocco Minsk The New York faced a sizable hole at point guard going into the offseason when they parted ways with Derrick Rose. At one point last year, the Knicks were reduced to starting Ron Baker, who actually did not perform too shabbily down the stretch (it’s got to be the hair).
The Knicks, whose many forays into the international market have gone less than swimmingly (see, e.g. Frederic Weis) drafted Frank Ntilikina 8th overall out of France and Belgium. Ntilikina was regarded as a project when he was drafted with a limited track record, having played less than 20 MPG in a short season in the top-tier French league as an 18-year old. Ntilikina’s scoring was impacted by the fact that he did not shoot that much, averaging 4.1 shots in just over 18 minutes. Clearly, he won’t be lighting up the stat sheet when shooting that sparingly. Where Ntilikina excelled in France was in shooting the 3 (43.1%) and protecting the basketball (.9 TO in 18 MPG). Additionally, Ntilikina contributed in steals too averaging .8 SPG in his limited minutes.
Ntilikina has been injured for much of the preseason, missing the Summer league with a knee injury and missing time this regular season with an ankle injury. However, Ntilikina’s limited sample size this regular season gives some indication of the fantasy player that he has the potential to be. Although Ntilikina is only 19 and still has much development in him, I think it is a fair assumption that he will be more of a passer and not the primary scoring option on his team, which can still lead to plenty of fantasy value if he stuffs the stat sheet elsewhere.
Ntilikina has been less reticent to shoot so far this year, attempting 6 FG’s in 15.7 MPG, a ratio way higher than last season in France and that has manifested itself in his lower FG percentage. Surprisingly, he has a higher 3PT % than he does from closer to the basket as Ntilikina has always been a solid outside shooter. Where Ntilikina will really help your team if he starts to increase his minutes is in assists and steals. It would not be unreasonable to expect 8 APG and 2 SPG if Ntilikina ever drew 30 minutes of playing time per game. Ntilikina still does not yet make the Knicks better as his offensive rating of 99.4 hovers below the Knicks overall offensive rating, but that should chance as Ntilikina’s offensive game grows more efficient.
So about that playing time…..the Knicks are obviously being cautious with their prized rookie as he has been coming off the bench behind Jarrett Jack. Therein lies the opportunity for Ntilikina, he does not have much by way of competition for playing time and his minutes will likely be determined by his own development rather than being held back by a good player in front of him. Tonight in Denver, the Knicks started essentially what was a three guard offense with Tim Hardaway Jr playing small forward. In addition to Jack, the Knicks are giving heavy minutes to another aged veteran Courtney Lee. There is not much ahead of Ntilikina so it is a fair assumption that he will be playing more than 20 MPG by midseason and at that point, he will be a valuable asset for your fantasy team. In deeper leagues, Ntilikina should be stashed now.