What happened to Frank Ntilikina?

The disappearing act of Frank Ntilikina the past three games has left Knicks fans wondering whether the team still believes in Ntilikina as a future piece in the rotation.

A four game stretch in which he averaged 14 minutes per game, Ntilikina made only three of his attempted 17 field goal attempts, grabbed eight rebounds, and dished out only three assists, Fizdale made the decision to sit him.

For the past three games, Ntilikina has been nowhere to be found on the court. Which has some fans starting to lose their patience and question whether the 20 year old is still an asset to the team’s future success.

Fizdale has said from the beginning this benching isn’t permanent and it’s more about player development and re-establishing Ntilikina’s confidence.

Talking with the media yesterday, Fizdale echoed that message again:

“No one is ever buried on our team,’’ Fizdale said. “It’s just one quick decision away from getting him in the mix. He had a heck of a practice today and you will be seeing Frank on the court sometime soon” (New York Post)

What’s been encouraging for the fans that value this season has a year of patience and growth is that this message Fizdale is sending to Ntilikina has seemed to work for other players on the roster.

Emmanuel Mudiay, Trey Burke, and Damyean Dotson all experienced moments this year where they sat and received the DNP-Coach’s Decision tag and bounced back in big ways.

Best part is Ntilikina seems to understand the situation and is casting a positive outlook:

“I just saw them bounce back real good on the court,’’ Ntilikina said. “Like they did, and what I’m doing right now, they competed really hard at practice. They got extra work. That’s what I’m doing every day. We all got to stay confident. We’ve been through some tough things in life. It’s just a thing that will help me bounce back in life and get better.” (New York Post)

Remember when Ntilikina was drafted he was the youngest player in the draft class featuring the most raw talent. It always was going to take time for Ntilikina to develop.

Best comparison to the type of player Ntilikina can develop into is a Marcus Smart/Tony Allen type player.

Marcus Smart is valuable starter and rotation member on the Celtics due to defense alone. Smart’s offense is still horrific and he’s in his 5th year. Smart has never shot about 40% from the field in any season (Best is this season at 38.9%) and is a career 29.5% shooter from the three point line.

Yet, Smart is still extremely effective and valuable as the Celtic’s best defender. That’s what Ntilikina is to the Knicks. At just 20 years of age, he already is one of the leagues better perimeter defenders.

Smart has turned his negative offensive game into a four year $52 million contract. Danny Ainge isn’t throwing around money to players he doesn’t think can help him win a championship.

Ntilikina has that type of defensive potential.

Yes, him sitting out games sucks at the moments. Fans want to see him play and fans that watch the Knicks on regular basis knows Ntilikina brings the little things to the game that leads to winning plays that don’t necessarily show up in the box score.

In no way, should people be giving up on Ntilikina just because of three DNP’s. It sounds like the benching will be short lived and will be able to see #11 take the floor again some time soon.

Not everything clicks at 20 years old but best believe Ntilikina’s best basketball is still to come.

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