The New York Knicks have realized rookie Frank Ntilikina is more of an off-ball player, projecting more as a shooting guard than the point.
Even though they recently signed point guards Trey Burke and also traded for Emmanuel Mudiay, it’s entirely possible they could draft a new point guard in the offseason. Ntilikina did not play point guard in France and has the length and wingspan to guard taller shooting guards.
Because he struggles to create his own shot, Ntilikina will likely need to be joined in the backcourt by a scoring guard. This has led various mock drafts to slate a capable scorer like Alabama’s Collin Sexton to New York.
The front office will have to evaluate their assets before the draft but it does not seem like Ntilikina is their point guard, per Stefan Bondy (via New York Daily News):
“Ntilikina can always get stronger and develop a quicker dribble, but the idea that the Knicks already drafted their point guard is fading. It also means the Knicks need to get a better sense of what Mudiay has to offer before tackling the draft and free agency … Ntilikina, for now, has been pivoted from the point guard of the future to the backup shooting guard.”
Ntilikina won’t be the second-unit shooting guard forever, of course, but this still limits the future role of fellow rookie guard Damyean Dotson.
According to ESPN’s Ian Begley, the Knicks may decide to trade Dotson during the offseason. The 23-year-old was selected in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft and has played just 8.9 minutes per game since entering the league.
However, the 6-foot-7 shooting guard has had tremendous success as a spot-up scorer when on the court. This is the only area of offense where Ntilikina has been better than average for his position so far this season.
The team has been outscored by 5.5 points per 100 possessions when the two players are on the court at the same time. Their offensive rating (95.0) is the second-worst out of any two-man lineup that has played as many minutes at the same time for the squad.
Both players are primarily spot-up scorers right now, which is exactly what the team expected from Dotson. He was one of the most efficient players in the NCAA on spot-up plays last season.
His success has translated to the pros as well – he has averaged 1.12 points per possession, which currently ranks in the 79th percentile among those at his position per Synergy Sports.
Dotson is 5-for-9 (55.6 percent) on his dribble jumpers during spot-up possessions and 10-for-23 (43.5 percent) overall when taking jump shots off the dribble. He is also shooting well on all jump shots, with 21-for-51 (41.2 percent) so far this season.
It’s not that he has no future in the league – his style of play (defensive-minded without tremendous versatility on offense) is just too similar to what Ntilikina offers.
While he is on the older side of the spectrum for a rookie and may not have a place with the Knicks moving forward, New York would likely not struggle to find a potential suitor for him on the trade market.
There are plenty of teams that would be willing to buy low on a player who is strong on defense and has a nice jump shot.