DALLAS — In not less than one vital side of basketball, Frank Ntilikina acknowledges he needs to be extra like Dennis Smith Jr.
That’s not very reassuring to Knicks followers who’re lamenting the truth that Phil Jackson handed over Smith Jr. within the draft, however it’s additionally true: Ntilikina is a passive offensive participant, even when the Knicks want him to attain.
Smith Jr., then again, will not be shy about taking it to the ring.
“He’s recognized for his offensive expertise. Principally I’m recognized for my defensive expertise,” Ntilikina stated. “That a part of him being aggressive, that’s at all times fascinating to observe. That’s the half I’ve to discover in my recreation. One thing I can be taught and take (from him), as I stated he’s an excellent participant offensively.
“It’s one thing I’ve to discover and can discover,” he added. “I wish to be one of the best participant I can grow to be sooner or later. So I simply need each a part of my recreation be one of the best. That’s the half I’ve to work on.”
Ntilikina and Smith Jr. enter their first matchup Sunday as very completely different gamers, with principally reverse strengths and weaknesses. Ntilikina, in his final 4 video games, is averaging 5 factors and a couple of.5 assists on 28 p.c capturing. With Tim Hardaway Jr. lacking the final month-plus with a stress damage, he’s been a part of a sputtering offense missing creativity. Extra just lately, coach Jeff Hornacek has used lineups that includes Ntilikina with one other level guard — whether or not it’s Ron Baker or Jarrett Jack — to alleviate a number of the rookie’s ball-handling duties. Scouts have stated Ntilikina initiatives higher as an off-guard working with out the ball.
However offense is just half the sport. Ntilikina’s actual potential is as a top-level defender.
“They’re undoubtedly two various kinds of gamers. Dennis, with the pick-and-rolls, he’s going to have stats,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek stated. “Frank, just a little extra defensively, it’s arduous to measure these issues. I’m positive everybody will at all times evaluate factors, however there are a variety of different issues that go into it.”
Smith Jr. is averaging 17.three factors and four.5 assists on 46 p.c capturing in his final 4 video games. He’s an explosive offensive drive however nonetheless has to show he generally is a profitable participant. Throughout his lone season at NC State, the Wolfplack completed with a disappointing dropping report. Now that he’s a place to begin guard within the NBA, his Mavericks are simply 13-27.
His protection can be suspect, to the purpose that Dallas coach Rick Carlisle singled him out Friday for after the Mavericks gave up 47 factors within the fourth quarter in opposition to the Bulls.
“They’re selecting on Dennis,” Carlisle stated. “They’re going at him.”
The Knicks contemplated drafting Smith Jr. and Hornacek recalled his dinner with the prospect fondly – “he was a child who was greater than I believed he was,” the coach stated. However the Knicks went for Ntilikina, and the 2 will probably be ceaselessly linked.
It most likely wasn’t a coincidence Saturday that Ntilikina stayed after follow for additional work, a day earlier than his first matchup in opposition to a pure – even when reverse – rival.
“He’s a great participant,” Ntilikina stated. “He’s fairly athletic for his dimension. It’s a bonus as a result of he can soar to the rim and end like another level guards can do. He’s fairly quick, can shoot the ball. He’s very gifted.”