The New York Knicks showed the ultimate vote of confidence by picking up Frank Ntilikina’s fourth-year option, one that will keep the French point guard in The Big Apple through 2020-21 barring a trade, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic.
The 6-foot-5 guard impressed during his showing at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, as he displayed glimpses of being a capable cog at the position while showing some improvement on his outside shot.
The Knicks don’t see Ntilikina as a starting-caliber option at this point, but they hope he develops into a good 3-and-D asset who can be used to stick on opposing guards in hopes to limit their production. Ntilikina’s near-7-foot wingspan and his athleticism were the biggest draws of his selection in the 2017 NBA Draft, but his development has been slow to come with an erratic first two years in The City That Never Sleeps.
Ntilikina averaged 8.0 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists through eight games this summer with France, which placed third in the competition. While these are modest numbers, it was his play against Team USA that really raised eyebrows.
The 21-year-old hit 5-of-9 from the field, including a late 3-pointer to put the Americans away, showing he’s capable of performing in big moments. Ntilikina also badly outplayed Kemba Walker in the big win.
Ntilikina has also been working on his 3-point shot and most importantly his approach to the game, vowing to be more aggressive when he comes off the bench.
Yet this was more of a strategical move than an outpour of belief. The option will keep Ntilikina under control of the Knicks through 2020-21 at a price tag of $6.2 million, keeping his rights as a restricted free agent for 2021-22 and preserves a potential trade value.
The Knicks could still have over $50 million in cap space this summer after signing a series of free agents to one-and-one deals. At this point, getting depth for cheap is the move to make, making this a low-risk, high-reward gamble for a team that has been long questioned for its ability to make the right moves.
While there was some debate about whether or not Ntilikina would get this option picked up, this really should have been a no-brainer move.