The returns are in. And unfortunately for two young New York Knicks, rookie forward Kevin Knox and second-year guard Frank Ntilikina, the reviews of their play are not all that positive.
At least that's what a group of scouts and NBA personnel told the New York Post's Marc Berman.
"If the Knicks' last two lottery picks were stocks, they'd be plummeting."
That was the lede in a story published Thursday by Berman, and given the scouts and other NBA personnel he spoke with, it's not exactly an unfair characterization of what is in front of two players the Knicks have invested a good deal of effort in bringing along.
Although some basketball faithful are still abiding by the "Trust the Process" mantra, others are not pulling any punches when it comes to the play they've seen from Knox (19 years old) and Ntilikina (20).
"I don't like how [Knox is] playing,'' an Atlantic Division scout said. "He's lazy on defense a bit. He's looking for his shot right away. He's also got to wake up a little. There's loose balls he can get to.
"I like when he puts the ball on the ground," the scout added. "He's a big boy, but he's capable of getting closer to the basket [rather] than launching three-pointers."
An unnamed assistant coach told Berman that Knox has focused too heavily on looking for his own shot in lieu of creating potential opportunities for his teammates.
"Sometimes he looks like he doesn't want to play," the assistant said. "The evaluations coming out of Kentucky were not all good -- that he didn't have a motor and plays too soft. It's not easy to teach that now."
Many may consider Knox to be a more sound prospect given the physical attributes (6-foot-9, 215 pounds) he possesses, but after some flashes of success in Las Vegas at the NBA Summer League in July he has proven to be a bit overmatched against true NBA-caliber competition (32.5 percent shooting from the field in 16 games this season).
For Ntilikina, the focus may just be on getting a notch in the scoresheet the next time the Knicks take the floor. The 20-year-old guard has gone scoreless over the last two games for the Knicks, missing all eight of his field goals in the team's losses to Detroit and Philadelphia.
Emmanuel Mudiay took over the starting role from Ntilikina a few weeks ago, which has forced the youngster to the bench as he begins to work his way out of the doldrums of a second-year swoon. Ntilikina hasn't reached double figures in 11 straight games, a stretch that includes four scoreless outings.
"They gave him enough chances,'' the Atlantic Division scout said. "The kid is very unaggressive and soft -- no instincts to play point guard. He can make the pocket pass if it's there, but sometimes it's stolen. He's playing horribly right now. I actually feel bad for the kid.
"He looks like he has the potential to be a good backup, but never a starter on a good team."
Ntilikina struck back at his critics, saying he does add offensive value.
"[I make] the easy play, getting teammates involved,'' he told the Post. "It's not always about scoring. I'm going to do what I do to bring the most to the team. If I'm not scoring, I'll try to do something else."
Ntilikina said that he is focused on taking the next steps in his growth and development as an NBA player, which means focusing on what he needs to do off the court to guarantee that he'll "be aggressive and stay confident" when he does get playing time.
"I know what I can be a couple of years from now," he added.
Sure, the defensive end is where many would think the 6-foot-6 French-bred guard has the most potential to have an impact, but the Atlantic scout said he believes that Ntilikina's "confidence is shot on offense".
"His passes aren't doing anything," the scout added. "He's a better-than-average defender. He can be disruptive with length, but he's slow to react."
Tim Shea, a former European scout with the Knicks and Hornets who now works as an NBA consultant, said it's too early to judge Ntilikina without giving him credit for doing some subtler things on the court.
"Ultimately [he] wants to make the right play,'' Shea said. "The value of having someone like that on your NBA roster is immeasurable on the positive side of the team ledger. It's contagious to the rest. Patience is the key with him.''
Knicks head coach David Fizdale has tried to focus on what he calls the "baby steps of player development".
"I saw something we've been working on carry over," Fizdale said in reference to a late bucket from Knox in the Knicks' 117-91 loss on Wednesday to the Philadelphia 76ers. "People probably think I'm crazy because I celebrate down 30."
When the conversation on the hardwood turns to the topic of youth, it's clear the New York Knicks have it in spades. However, some are still witholding judgment until there is a greater body of work for the young Knickerbocks.
Both Ntilikina and Knox will have a change to start bucking the trend when the Knicks tip off against the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden on Saturday at 5 p.m.