Frank Ntilikina has been a polarizing player since the Knicks selected him No. 8 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, so much so that the team was shopping him ahead of this year’s draft.
Now, the 21-year-old guard is showing he might be able to fulfill his potential. Ntilikina had another big performance at the FIBA World Cup in China, this time helping France send Team USA packing in the quarterfinals with an 89-79 win.
Ntilikina’s defense was strong down the stretch, which isn’t necessarily unexpected. It was his two big shots in crunch time, however, that give off the impression he’s improving.
Ntilikina nailed a 3-pointer with 4:35 left to tie the game 76-76 and made another critical shot with 2:05 remaining to give France an 82-76 lead. He finished the game with 11 points, shooting 5-for-9 from the field with three assists.
Andrew Albicy was France’s starting point guard when the tournament began, but Ntilikina wrestled the job away. Ntilikina will be battling Dennis Smith Jr. and free agent signing Elfrid Payton for minutes at the point for the Knicks.
The Knicks, who are scouting the tournament, have to be encouraged by what they’ve seen from Ntilikina as they prepare for the upcoming NBA season.
“He’s been very aggressive and confident,” an NBA scout in China told The Post’s Marc Berman last week.