The Dallas Mavericks signed former Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina to a two-year deal on Sept. 16 following a disappointing and peculiar tenure in New York. Ntilikina showed occasional flashes of why the Knicks spent their eighth overall pick in 2017 on him, but his time in New York was filled with inconsistent play and failure to live up to expectations. When his playing time plummeted to 9.8 minutes per game last year from 20.9 his first three years, it looked like the Ntilikina era was coming to an end.
Ntliikina was somewhat of a polarizing figure in New York. A section of Knicks fans admired the french guard and felt the hate he received was unjustified, while others thought he was a bust and drafted way too high. Ntliikina being picked ahead of All-Stars like Bam Adebayo and Donovan Mitchell did nothing but add fuel to the raging fire of Ntilikina hate.
Those fans had a right to be mad as Ntilikina never really got it going for the Knicks. Although his stint in New York was below par, there are reasons why he has a legion of Knicks fans that love him. The French Prince is a good teammate by all accounts and plays the game extremely hard. These attributes garnered love from supporters amidst an NBA career that most people would categorize as a failure up to this point.
What does Frank Ntilikina bring to the Dallas Mavericks?
I've been following Ntilikina since the 2017 draft as I thought the Knicks would get Dennis Smith Jr., leaving the Mavs with Ntilikina. The thing I fell in love with years ago was his defensive potential, and it's something that has translated in the league. Ntilikina is a legitimately elite defender and has the chance to be the best perimeter defender in the league. Ntilikina is 6'4 but has an incredible 7'1 wingspan and that, coupled with his effort, are excellent characteristics for an All-NBA caliber defender.
Ntilikina can shut down the opposing team's best player and be the stopper the Mavericks need against the league's best. His length provides defensive versatility and allows him to guard three positions. The sky is the limit when it comes to how good the 23-year-old can be on defense.
A big reason Ntilikina struggled in New York was his ineptitude as a scorer, specifically outside of the paint. He could never find a consistent jumper, and nowadays, point guards need to create for themselves and others. The position has passed over guys who can't score even if they have other unique attributes and skills. Ben Simmons's struggles are an excellent example of that. The Knicks drafted Ntilikina hoping he would be the team's future at the position, but he never showed that ability.
Ntilikina isn't a primary point guard, but that is okay. The Mavs have Luka Doncic and need to take some of the ball-handling load off of him, and Ntilikina can be helpful in that regard. The 6'4 guard can handle the ball with the size of a wing, providing head coach Jason Kidd the flexibility to play him with more natural scoring guards like Jalen Brunson and Tim Hardaway Jr.
If the Dallas Mavericks can find a role befit to Frank Ntilikina, he could be a valuable contributor this season. People are so soon to write off players nowadays, but he was a high-end lottery pick just four years ago. Ntilikina is still a valuable player, and it's up to coach Kidd to get the most out of him.