The New York Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina won the battle of the rookie point guards Sunday against Dennis Smith Jr. This distinction was given to the Knicks’ Ntilikina even though he and Smith were not often directly matched against one another.
Ntilikina tallied an impressive line in the 25 minutes he played with seven points and seven rebounds to go along with five assists, two blocks, and two steals. And when Smith Jr. was his defensive assignment, Ntilikina more than held his own.
Smith Jr. had a decent game in his own right scoring 11 points in his 24 minutes on the floor to go along with five assists and two steals. Many were critical of the Knicks for passing on Smith Jr. in last year’s draft and even NBA star Lebron James expressed that the team “blew it.” But Ntilikina, if only for one game gave credence to the thought that maybe the Knicks knew what they were doing the entire time.
The first time the rookie point guards appeared on the court together was with 8:40 seconds remaining in the second quarter. The ensuing series saw Ntilikina block a shot by Jose Barrera and then shoot a three-pointer over Smith Jr. on the other end of the court.
Smith, who scored the majority of his points when matched against Mavs point guard Jarret Jack, struggled with shooting the ball before hitting a three-pointer to end the half. This took place while Ntilikina watched from the bench.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle spoke before the game saying that his team was planning to draft Ntilikina in the event that the Knicks did, in fact, take Smith Jr. Carlisle also said that he and the Mavericks organization were ‘desperate’ to interview Ntilikina.
The praise Carlisle heaped on Ntilikina continues as the coach went on to express that he is impressed with the competitiveness of the young point guard. Carlisle says he ‘understands ‘ the decision on the part of the Knicks to draft Ntilikina.