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The Knicks shouldn’t give up on Frank Ntilikina

The deadline is approaching for the New York Knicks to make a decision regarding the $6.2 million final-year team-option for Frank Ntilikina. It would be wise to not give up on him yet and pick up his option ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline.

Heading into the NBA, the expectation for Ntlikina as a draft prospect was that he has great defensive tools but has a raw offensive skill-set. That has been quite indicative of how he has performed during his first two seasons with the Knicks. It’s important that they remain patient because it should have been the expectation that it would take time for him to develop.

The offensive production that Ntilikina has produced has been genuinely underwhelming. He has posted career averages of 5.9 points, 3.1 assists, and 1.5 turnovers while shooting 35.4 percent from the field, 30.5 percent on three-pointers, and 73.5 percent on free throws. Again, this was the expectation for the beginning of his NBA career.

The 2019 FIBA World Cup afforded Ntilikina with a different forum to showcase his skill-set. He displayed confidence and was aggressive on the offensive end of the floor. His tournament performance was highlighted by his lockdown defense on Kemba Walker and timely offensive contributions that helped lead France in their 89-79 win over Team USA.

The impressive play that Ntilikina provided France has yet to translate to game action with the Knicks but making conclusions from two preseason games is unwise. His averages of 7.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists look solid on the surface, but there is more to consider. He has averaged 2.5 turnovers and is shooting 29.4 percent from the field and 14.3 percent on three-pointers.

The upcoming season will be important for Ntilikina whether his option is picked up or not. He will be competing with Dennis Smith Jr. and Elfrid Payton for playing time in the Knicks’ backcourt rotation, per Steve Popper of Newsday. The only thing that is for certain right now is that Ntilikina’s play from preseason will not be enough.

It currently appears unknown what Ntilikina’s role is long-term with the Knicks, or if there is even going to be one. Knicks general manager Scott Perry recently said that the Knicks have yet to make a decision on his final-year option, per Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. There will only be a handful of games before the option deadline for Ntilikina to make his best case.

Making the decision to accept Ntilikina’s option would enable the Knicks to maximize his value as a trade asset while not risking making the wrong decision in the event of him having a strong season. It is worth noting that there was a recent report that the Detroit Pistons could have interest in trading for Ntlikina, per Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

The 21-year-old guard has not exceeded expectations so far during his NBA career, but it’s just too early to write him off. At least allowing him to prove himself seems to be the best option.