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The Knicks definitely took a risk when they went with French point guard Frank Ntilikina with the 8th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. They decided to pass up on two 19-year-old talented guards in Dennis Smith, Jr. and Malik Monk -- a decision that left some Knicks fans scratching their heads. They decided to go with more of an unknown.
The decision to draft more of an unknown paid off well in 2015 when the Knicks took 7'3" Latvian Kristaps Porzingis. While fans booed the pick on draft day, it has now been all cheers for the big man who has become the cornerstone of the franchise.
Will this year's unknown work out as well?
What we continue to hear about Ntilikina is his size. He's a 6'5" point guard with a 7-foot wingspan, which is almost unheard of. The only starting point guard taller than him is fellow rookie Lonzo Ball. The only starting point guard with his wingspan is fellow rookie Markelle Fultz.
Ntilikina's body frame for his position is right there at the top of the NBA. That's a good sign for the Knicks, especially on the defensive end. It all starts with your point guard, and if Ntilikina can learn how to defend well in the NBA, he can force turnovers. Turnovers equal fast breaks, which equals easy buckets. This is something the Knicks have lacked from the position for a while.
This is going to take time, though. Ntilikina hasn't played in America and there is always that adjustment period. This entire first season for him will be a learning and a growing process. If anyone expects him to come out firing right out of the gate, they will be disappointed. It's going to take a lot of patience, but after a year or two, expect to see him as the clear-cut starting point guard for this team.
Ntilikina's impact early on will be seen on the defensive side of the floor, where he will be able to be a three-position defender. But don't look for him to have a huge impact immediately like Dennis Smith, Jr. or De'Aaron Fox likely will.
On the offensive side of the ball, he can make a pull-up three and use his long strides to get to the hoop off the pick-and-roll. The high character guard from Belgium is in a good spot to learn. If Jarrett Jack makes the roster, and there is no reason he should not (if healthy), he'll be the perfect guy to teach Ntilikina the ins and outs of the game. Jack has been around for a decade with several teams and has started and come off the bench.
Ntilikina also has veteran Ramon Sessions to help him learn the point guard position at the NBA level as well. Sessions has been around the block and knows how to be effective off the bench.
With the size and wingspan, veteran leaders alongside him in the backcourt, and his defensive strengths, look for Ntilikina to be a solid addition to the Knicks. He'll never be at the level of Porzingis, but in a few years when he's a bit more mature, and knows the NBA game, we'll see the French guard leading the Knicks up the floor in playoff games.
For now, just watch him adjust to the game and get through the early-season struggles he may have at this level. In his rookie season, expect him to play around 25 MPG and average somewhere around 10 PPG, 6 APG, and 5 RPG.