Written by: Bob Engelhard
Phil Jackson is gone as we all know and overall he did a poor job, however he did get a few things correct. Phil Jackson was in over his head when it came to free agency, trading players and dealing with his own players but his draft record is pretty damn good. This is why the pick of Frank Ntilinkina I am confident in and I feel we got the fourth best player in the draft at pick 8. People were clamoring for Dennis Smith Jr. and Malik Monk as the Knicks were on the clock and in my opinion they made a great choice by not taking those guys. This situation reminds me of the 2015 draft when Phil selected Kristaps Porzingis 4th overall when most fans wanted Justice Winslow or Emmanuel Mudiay. Needless to say that move was the correct one as was picking up Willy Hernangomez who was recently named to the NBA all rookie first team later in that draft. So even though Phil was clueless in some areas he did get us 2 players who will be cornerstones for this franchise for a long time. I think he added another key piece in this draft with Frank Ntilinkina.
I love this kids game and in todays NBA it is crucial to have a point guard who can play defense and shoot. Dennis Smith Jr. and Malik Monk at this point are more polished on the offensive end but neither of those guys are going to be strong defenders in the NBA. I see Ntilinkina having the ability to be a NBA first team defense type of player. What makes me believe this is number one his size is outstanding for a point guard. He is 6’5 and has a huge 7 foot wingspan to go along with his height. Just as a comparison Kawhi Leanard is 6 foot 7 and has a 7 foot wingspan and is the premier perimeter defender in the NBA. This kid is going to wreak havoc on the defensive end as an on the ball defender and should be near the top of NBA in steals once he learns the NBA game and the passing lanes. I have read that in the French Pro League he just finished he would routinely pick up the opposing point guards full court and is a willing aggressive defender who works hard on that end of the floor. The combination of a point guard who is going to pressure the ball and the rim protection that KP provides the Knicks will be strong on the defensive end of the court for the first time since the Patrick Ewing Knicks.
Defense is the reason I think Frank Ntilinkina was the right pick for the Knicks but his offensive game has a lot of promise to it also. Everything I have read and seen on tape has shown this kid has a real feel for the flow of a game and his basketball IQ is high. This is something you can not measure and truly is what separates the good players from the great ones. Lebron James is Lebron James because of his physical tools combined with his insane basketball IQ. Ntilinkina needs to fill out his frame a little more which will allow him to be a better finisher at the rim and draw more fouls but being only 18 years old that will come in time naturally. What will make this kid an elite player will be his continued improvement on his outside shooting and the addition of a true mid range game especially the pull up jumper off the dribble. With his size and length the pull up jumper in the lane is an unstoppable shot especially given the fact his 3 point shooting is strong guys will have to play up on him which will give him the option to dribble drive and pull up. He made 68 percent of his pull up jumpers in the 6 game U-18 European tournament so the ability is there. He is not the most explosive player with the ball in his hands but I feel with his high basketball IQ, size, and reliable outside shooting he can play a methodical offensive game and really control the game. He is a pass first guard at this point and is solid in the pick and roll game so I am extremely excited to see him work with KP and Willy next season who are both equipped to be great pick and roll guys and now they finally have a point guard who is not just interested in putting his head down and driving to the basket no matter what (cough Rose cough). Ntilinkina has already improved on his 3 point shooting and his catch and shoot game which at this point is strong and should continue to get better because it has been widely reported this kid is an extremely hard worker and wants to improve his game.
Overall I love this choice because sometimes it is not the sexy pick that builds a winning team it is the guy who has the tools to fit in todays NBA and to fit with the rest of your team. We needed a defensive point guard who could stretch the floor and more importantly get KP and Willy the ball in prime positions to score and be unselfish. That is exactly what we got in Frank Ntilinkina. We saw Derrick Rose last year and while he could score easily his lack of outside shooting, defense and willingness to pass killed our team all season long. While Phil Jackson made many mistakes his draft record was strong and I think he left us with another gem.