Who Exactly is Frank Ntilikina?

Nov 15, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; The flag of France is displayed in honor of the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks before the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Detroit Pistons at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 15, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; The flag of France is displayed in honor of the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks before the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Detroit Pistons at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports /

With the NBA Draft a few months away, the Dallas Mavericks have been linked to Frank Ntilikina in many mock drafts. So who is the young, French point guard?

“So who is this young point guard from France that keeps being tabbed to the Mavericks in mock drafts?” a Mavs fan asked me one day on Twitter.

Over the last couple of months, mock drafts from across the media circuits have all had (at one point) the Dallas Mavericks selecting a young point guard out of France by the name of Frank Ntilikina. The only problem, hardly anyone knows anything about the kid.

He doesn’t play for a top, European powerhouse like Real Madrid or Barcelona. He didn’t play in the Nike Hoop Summit. His role was a simple role player for his club team. Oh, he’s only 18 years old too.

So who exactly is Frank Ntilikina?

Ntilikina is a 18-year-old point guard who is 6’5″ tall and weighs approximately 170 pounds. What is even more impressive about his physicality at the point guard spot is that his wingspan is a rumored seven feet long. He went pro at the age of 15 and has played professional basketball over the last three years.

Over his time playing for Strasbourg in France, Frank has simply grown up.

Going from a 15-year-old kid to a 18-year-old young man has been a journey for the youngster, but over the last year, Ntilikina has only risen up NBA draft boards here in America.

Playing as a simple role player for Strasbourg, Ntilikina averaged just over 15 minutes a game in a limited offensive role. It was when Ntilikina went to play for France in the U18 European Championship that he really turned the head of scouts.

Following the tournament in December, scouting reports started to pour in on the young kid.

"“Ntilikina is the real deal. He just guided France’s under-18 team to a FIBA European championship. He scored 31 points in the title game against Lithuania and made 17 of his 29 3s in the tournament. He’s big, aggressive and tough and he plays with a high basketball IQ” –ESPN’s Chad Ford"

In looking at where top point guard prospects in the draft could fit around the league, Ford connected the Mavericks with Ntilikina and even said that sources said the Mavs were “really high” on the kid.

"“After scoring only 7.3 points per game through the first three contests, Ntilikina finished the tournament averaging 22.7 points, 6.7 assists, 3.2 steals, 1.7 blocks and 5.0 turnovers per 40 minutes on 42.4% from two-point range and 58.6% from three-point range.” Source: http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Frank-Ntilikina-77051/ ©DraftExpress"

It was in the title game of this tournament, that Ntilikina would score 31 points for the gold medal and the MVP of the tournament. France turned the offense over to the kid and the kid delivered.

Draft Express goes in-depth on all of the strengths of Ntilikina’s game and how it translates to the next level.

Since his physical frame is brought up the most for a point guard, I decided to look into some players around the league that might have the same makeup when they came into the league.

Michael Carter-Williams- 6’6″- 184 pounds – 6’7″ wingspan

Dante Exum- 6’6″ – 196 pounds – 6’9″ wingspan

Russell Westbrook – 6’3″ – 192 pounds – 6’7″ wingspan

Elfrid Payton – 6’4″ – 185 pounds – 6’8″ wingspan

Rajon Rondo – 6’1″ – 175 pounds – 6’9″ wingspan (rumored)

Kawhi Leonard – 6’7″ – 227 pounds – 7’3″ wingspan

Frank Ntilikina – 6’5″ – 170 pounds –  7’0″ wingspan

*All measurements from www.draftexpress.com.

So basically, you could look at Ntilikina through a few different physical lenses. He could be a better shooting, four inches taller Rajon Rondo. He could be 60 pound lighter Kawhi Leonard running the point.

Currently, and some fans might not like it, I think Ntilikina resembles Dante Exum the most physically even though Exum (surprisingly enough) was 25 pounds heavier coming into the draft.

When it comes to the weaknesses of Ntilikina, it all starts with a trait that is great to an extent, but a trait that you have to balance: unselfishness.

He has the physical tools to take over a game and the outside shot to score with the best in Europe, but he doesn’t always look to be “the guy” all of the time. Whether it is with his club team in Strasbourg or his national team in France, Ntilikina sometimes takes the backseat as he tries to orchestrate the offense.

Before his breakout performance in the U18 Championship, his club coach and teammates wanted to see that come out in the kid.

"“For Ntilikina, the goal is to wield those tools with more aggressiveness and consistency. He is quiet by nature. The people around him would love to see him take more risks, to make more mistakes, to show more fire.” –Andrew Keh, of the New York Times, said in his feature on Ntilikina."

As far as who the kid is studying to help his aggression, the youngster said he watches film of Russell Westbrook.

“He shows me what I can improve: my aggressiveness to the rim, my energy,” Ntilikina told The New York Times.

When watching film of Ntilikina, there were some issues that the kid will have to work out in his isolation game and penetration, but nothing that is unteachable. If aggression and getting to the rim at times is his biggest question marks at 18 years old, then sign me up any day.

Ultimately, you just don’t know how he will translate. You can literally say that about almost every prospect, but especially with Ntilikina because of the lack of sample size.

Jonathan Tjarks, of The Ringer, profiled Ntilikina and put an emphasis on how we simply don’t have the sample size for him like we do the other PG prospects in the NCAA.

"“Over the course of three years of games in six different leagues and international competitions, Ntilikina has taken a total of 158 3s (converting at a 42.4 percent clip) and 72 free throws (making 76.4 percent of them),” Tjarks said."

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Tjarks followed this with a chart that displayed Ntilikina’s stats over three years compared to the top PG prospects in the NCAA over just three months. Malik Monk, of Kentucky, has shot one more three pointer in three months (159) than Ntilikina has in three years (158).

But this isn’t because Ntilikina isn’t a good shooter, but rather an indictment to his age on an experienced team in a top league in France. You can read Tjarks’ full profile on Ntilikina here.

So who exactly is Frank Ntilikina?

To be honest, we don’t know that exact answer in basketball terms quite yet. But in a few months, he should be known across the NBA landscape as he hears his name called somewhere in the lottery on draft night.

Next: 1-on-1 With Nerlens Noel on Kentucky Basketball

With Tony Parker on his way out, Frank Ntilikina could be the next guard from France to take the league by storm.