When the New York Knicks selected Frank Ntilikina with the eighth overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, not many people even knew who he was.
After playing just eight minutes in the season opener and then missing the next two games due to a minor injury, the 19-year-old Belgian logged 23 minutes in the Knicks’ first win of the season against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday.
In the process, he showed off some of the skills that should make New York fans excited. Scoring nine points on 4-of-11 shooting, the point guard added two rebounds, five assists, a steal, three fouls and three turnovers.
While he was generally inefficient in his extended run, he also showed flashes of brilliance.
Knicks legend Clyde Frazier shared his thoughts about the teenaged point guard just before his debut.
“He's composed, man. He shows a lot of poise out there,” he explained to ESPN’s Ian Begley. “But like me, I could tell that he needs to work on his shot. But he's comfortable with the defensive aspect of the game and rebounding. But his shooting, I can tell. So he's probably nervous but I had three years on him, he's 19. And I'm obviously from the [United] States. And he's coming over from France to this situation. So it's obviously going to be more difficult for him. I think his teammates are going to be the key as far as being positive role models for him."
As if Frazier foresaw the future, Ntilikina missed his first five shots on Friday before settling down and making four of his last six.
While the 1-3 Knicks will likely struggle all season long, the front office signed both 31-year-old Ramon Sessions and 34-year-old Jarrett Jack to serve as mentors to the young Ntilikina. Additionally, Courtney Lee and Joakim Noah are both proven veterans who are 32 years old and could provide additional mentorship if called upon.
“I seen him take a deep breath, calm down, just relax and have fun,” Courtney Lee said after seeing the rookie’s home debut, via Al Iannazzone of Newsday. “Once he did that, you saw the playmaking ability, he was able to get to the spots, make jump shots. His court vision is crazy. He was able to make plays.” Additionally, Kristaps Porzingis claimed that Ntilikina is “going to be able to get triple-doubles. That’s what type of player he is.”
Coach Jeff Hornacek was also complimentary. “He can reach over the top of guys to make passes. He sees things that are there,” he raved. “He’s more of a true point guard than most of these guys in this league because he’s looking for his teammates first, and then if his shot is there, he’ll take it.”
Moving forward, look for the rookie to carve out more and more time and potentially start in the near future, as the team will attempt to develop the point guard of their future.