Note: This is a piece on Frank Ntilikina is from guest contributor Harrison Rahajason. Mr. Rahajason can be on found on Twitter by the username of @harrimilo
Who Is Frank Ntilikina?
With the NBA Draft just a little over three weeks away, chances are that you’ve been hearing that name more and more. As we currently stand, Ntilikina stands as arguably the best international prospect in the current NBA Draft class. Both CBS Sports and Draft Express current have Ntilikina going 9th to the Dallas Mavericks in their latest mock drafts. However, that high praise shouldn’t take away from the fact that there are still a wide array of NBA fans that are wary when their team selects an international prospect.
Save for a few exceptions, draft prospects from overseas are usually labelled as international men of mystery, and are considered guilty until proven innocent. A great example Kristaps Porzingis was greeted to a wall of boo’s and jeers when the Knicks took him with the 4th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Had Jahlil Okafor been available at that four slot for New York, he may have been the pick. It’s safe to say that his reception would have been...warmer. Let’s just say warmer. Two years later, Porzingis stands as one of the best young players in the NBA while Okafor stands as a backup big on one of the worst teams in the NBA.
Why does this happen? I think it’s simple. The overwhelming majority of NBA players are from the United States. Foreign players are far less common and therefore much more noticeable. So when one winds up being a bust, it kinda sticks out like a sore thumb. Is Darko Milicic really the biggest bust in NBA history? I mean, if you consider who was taken behind him then I guess you can make a case? By that logic, shouldn’t we also consider Greg Oden as the biggest bust since Kevin Durant, Al Horford and Mike Conley were picked after him?Who knows.
But this phenomenon highlights the reasons why the possibility of drafting a foreign prospect leaves fan-bases a bit wary.
However, that reasonable caution shouldn’t blind you from how special of a prospect Ntilikina can be. Standing at 6’5 with 6’11 wingspan, Ntilikina stands as the prototypical point guard in an era dominated by long guards. Alongside that long wingspan, the 18-year-old Ntilikina looks more like an NBA veteran due to how poised he looks when he has the ball in his hands. He seems to have already mastered the art of a pick-and-roll, whether it’s as a facilitator or on-ball cutter. Those skills are evident in the clip below from his game against Aris.
Although he definitely shined, Ntilikina still had a limited role with SIG Strasbourg. In 18.8 minutes per game, he averaged 5.6 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and .6 steals on 46% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc.
These are numbers that may suggest a prospect that still has plenty to learn. Although he spent most of his time as a point guard, his size tells that he could rotate between the two guard positions early on in his NBA career.
Essentially, he has all the physical tools. Coinciding with that, Ntilikina has a good looking jumper and appears to be a willing rebounder and passer. Now he has to put it all together at the NBA level.
Whichever team picks him up will be glad they did. He’s raw, and there’s not denying that. As a foreign player, he’ll have less time to prove himself before his fan base becomes impatient as an American player would. But I think with time, he could be a truly unique NBA point guard.