The New York Knicks were in a dilemma quite early in the season. They were without a firm timetable for their franchise player, Kristaps Porzingis, and faced an early injury from recently drafted Kevin Knox. The latter has returned to play, but has still been largely underwhelming for the hype around him. With the end goal of attracting 2019 free agents, that could be concerning.
Yet, despite the tragedies that have befallen the Knicks so early on, the fans have found solace in rookie sensations Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier. By now, we’ve come to learn that Robinson was a second-round pick who hadn’t taken part in officiated basketball in over a year, and Trier went undrafted. Both, however, have had their fair share of eye-popping plays, i.e., Robinson’s dunk and pretty much any of Trier’s isolation moves thus far. Neither players’ general statistics catch your eye directly, but advanced metrics may cause foaming at the mouth.
Robinson has played in nine games and started in six, which led to the benching of Enes Kanter. As a result, Robinson now possesses a +33 net rating per 100 possessions. He’s got one of the best defensive ratings on the team (108) and makes his presence known at 7-foot and 225 pounds.
Trier averages 11.5 points per game with a 61.5 TS%. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Damyean Dotson are the only other guards that come close to Trier in true shooting with 56 percent and 54.1 percent, respectively.
You can see just how easy it is to get lost in the aforementioned players’ performances, which would explain why Frank Ntilikina‘s impact has gone relatively unnoticed.
Let’s not forget Frank
Ntilikina, in his second season, has kept opponents to a field goal percentage of 46.7 percent throughout the season. The number could be lower if not for the amount of times he’s had to defend larger players down low. Head coach David Fizdale has made it clear he would like Ntilikina to move to different positions so he gets accustomed to guarding multiple positions.
On the offensive side of the ball, Ntilikina boasts a 102.04 pace factor when handling the ball, up from 99.57 in his rookie season. The one negative we can point out is his -10.4 net rating, as a result of his poor offensive rating (99.7).
Okay, maybe the numbers don’t do significant justice for Ntilikina’s case. For that reason, I’d propose you follow the eye test to see the effect he has on games instead. The defensive experiment Fizdale has employed isn’t doing Ntilikina’s statistics any favors. His mobility and awareness to switch are great, which is difficult to quantify.
Plenty of sacrifices have taken place for Ntilikina’s development, most notably the benching of Knox in place of Ntilikina. Trusting the defensive prospects of Ntilikina, Robinson and others has put a damper on offensive punch. That’s what this season is going to be about until Porzingis makes a return. Showing flashes of potential will only build the marketability for New York as a free agent landing spot. Ntilikina remains a focal point of that campaign, despite Trier and Robinson stealing some attention.
Patience is a virtue
In their most recent game against the Chicago Bulls, Fizdale strayed away from Ntilikina down the stretch, but he’s seen more than 25 minutes in all but three games this season, as a starter nonetheless. Since he was banished to the Shadow Realm for much of the Bulls game, Ntilikina stuck around to put in work following a double overtime loss. He has the ethic and common sense to know he needs improvement. Ntilikina isn’t afraid to work on every facet of his game to prove it.
Ntilikina has shown flashes this season, both as a facilitator and defensive stopper, but it’s hard to see some of that based off his statistics alone. I implore you, pay attention to Frank a bit more.
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR25 at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.