Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Knicks' front office has decided to pick up the option on Frank Ntilikina's contract for the 2020-21 season, the team announced.
Dennis Smith Jr. and Kevin Knox, New York's 2019 first-round pick, also had their options exercised. Ntilikina will make around $6.2 million next season, while Smith gets $5.6 million and Knox receives $4.58 million.
Because of his performance in his first two NBA seasons, the decision surrounding Ntilikina's option was a question for the Knicks heading into the new season.
Now, Ntilikina will be under team control through next season and will be a restricted free agent in 2021. If New York hadn't picked up Ntilikina's option, he would have been an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Ntilikina was asked on Monday if he felt this was a sign of a long-term partnership between he and the Knicks.
"Yeah and I would be happy about it," he said. "It's great here in New York to be part of this situation. It's motivation and a big excitement. It makes me willing to give even more on the court on a daily basis."
Ntilikina thrived for the French national team during their run to the silver medal in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. His play this preseason on the defensive end has been strong. While he's been more assertive on offense, that hasn't translated to more scoring. Ntilikina averaged five points on 29 percent shooting in the preseason.
He is competing with Smith Jr. and Elfrid Payton for New York's starting point guard spot.
Does the Knicks' decision Monday to pick up Ntilikina's option signify a long-term partnership between the club and the point guard? That remains to be seen. New York talked to teams about trades involving Ntilikina ahead of the 2019 NBA Draft. One team said discussions with New York included the Knicks receiving a high second-round pick.
Obviously, the offers weren't enough to cause the Knicks to make a deal.
By picking up his option, the Knicks have Ntilikina under contract until 2020-21. He will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2021.
This may make Ntilikina -- and his contract -- more enticing to a team that wants to acquire the point guard via trade. If the Knicks declined his option, Ntilikina would have been an unrestricted free agent this summer. With regards to how this could impact the Knicks this summer, Ntilikina's salary eats into their cap space for 2020, but the free agent class isn't considered strong.
For now, Ntilikina will compete for minutes in New York's crowded rotation.
"I'm thankful and happy about (getting) this done," Ntilikina said after Monday's practice. "On the court I'm still focusing on the first part of the season and first game. I'm excited about this year and this opportunity."
Ntilikina was drafted No. 8 overall by Phil Jackson in 2017, presumably because he was a strong fit for Jackson's triangle offense. Days after making the pick, Jackson was fired by the Knicks. Steve Mills, the GM at the time, said that he fully supported the decision to draft Ntilikina.
But Ntilikina has been in and out of the Knicks rotation in his first two seasons in the NBA.
We'll find out if Ntilikina will have a regular role on this Knicks team starting Wednesday, when New York opens the season in San Antonio against the Spurs.
Knicks head coach David Fizdale said Monday that Ntilikina has "had a competitive camp. I've been really happy with the way he's been approaching it."
The decisions to pick up the options for Smith Jr. and Knox II were, seemingly, less layered than the Ntilikina decision.
Smith Jr. was acquired in the Kristaps Porzingis trade last January. He is the most talented player that came back in the deal and the Knicks, you'd assume, are fully invested in his success in New York.
Knox was selected with the No. 9 pick in 2018, so the same rationale applies.