NEW YORK - Unable to trade up in the lottery, the Knicks held on to the No. 8 pick and selected French point guard Frank Ntilikina, who was promptly greeted with a mix of cheers and boos when his name was announced by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at Barclays Center.
"To be here is just like a dream come true," the upbeat Ntilikina said on ESPN. "To be here in the U.S. and enjoying the process with my family it's like a dream come true."
He added of the Knicks: "Great organization, great history and can't wait to play basketball and win a championship." The Knicks' last championship came in 1973.
After arriving at Liberty International Airport in Newark on Tuesday, Ntilikina met Wednesday morning with Knicks President Phil Jackson, GM Steve Mills and coach Jeff Hornacek.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I met with [them] for a little minute," he told FanRag Sports Wednesday morning at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, where players were conducting media interviews. "It went great."
Ntilikina could be the perfect fit for the triangle offense Jackson is obsessed with. Jackson has shown a penchant for drafting international players (see: Kristaps Porzingis, for whom he is now fielding trade offers).
"I think definitely I know that I would fit great with the system and with the players that play over there," he told FanRagSports.com on Wednesday. "I think the system is very close to the system I play in France so it will be good to me. It will be a right place."
ESPN's international draft guru Fran Fraschilla agrees.
"Actually, he fits the triangle really well because he's not a really a one or a two," Fraschilla told The 4 Quarters Podcast in May. "He's just a 6-foot-5, 18-year-old guard."
He added: "I got to see [Ntilikina] in Michael Jordan's gym last summer because he was here in New York, but Frank is a tremendous prospect. He's not as polished as [projected No. 1 pick Markelle] Fultz or [Lonzo] Ball right now, but playing at a high level in France and playing his best right now. And he's playing in a league that has put out a lot of NBA players.
The French Pro A league has guys all over the NBA, Rudy Gobert, [Boris] Diaw, [Tony] Parker], [Kevin] Seraphin] and others.
"So I think Frank would fit the triangle because he's a multi-dimensional, 6-foot-5 guard with tremendous ceiling because he's playing at high level at a very young age."
Amid the news that the Knicks are listening to trade offers on the 7-foot-3 Porzingis, Ntilikina said he'd love to play with both Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony, whom Jackson wouldn't mind parting with, either.
"For sure, those [are] great players," he said. "One's an NBA All-Star, the other I think will be if he keep going like that. I think we'll have a good relationship on the court and I think I will make them comfortable and help them to be better."
Asked if he hopes Porzingis is still a Knick if he gets drafted, Ntilikina said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, he's a great player. Future NBA All-Star, so it would be great to play with him."
Ntilikina averaged 5.2 points, 1.2 assists and 2.1 rebounds in 18 minutes this season, so he is not expected to have a huge impact right away.
"First, [I'm a] good defensive player," he said. "And on offense, I'm a team player, I want to give a lot to the team. I think I can score, I can pass it, play pick-and-roll, shoot it."
After the draft on Thursday night at Barclays Center, the 18-year-old will take a 2 a.m. flight back to France, where his Strasbourg club team will play Game 5 of the French League finals in Chalon.
A source said he would probably return to the U.S. on Saturday after his final game and that a press conference might not occur until Monday.
"Go back to my city back in France at 2 AM and try to win the championship," he said. "It's gonna be crazy, but that's what we play for."