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Stiffs NBA Draft prospect watch: Frank Ntilikina

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A guard that plays defense, yes please!

The Denver Stiffs will be covering the top prospects for the Denver Nuggets in the 2017 NBA Draft in our Stiffs Prospect Watch series. Check back daily for video, stats, and of top first round prospects.

Frank Ntilikina - Strasbourg International

Stats

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers Field Goal % Three Point % Free Throw %
5.3 2.3 1.5 0.7 0.2 0.8 47.8% 39.1% 60%

Strengths

Physicality & defense

At 6’6”, Ntilikina is taller for a point guard boasting a 7’+ wingspan that allows him the ability to rebound effectively both on offense and defense. While thin, he has a big frame giving him the advantage against smaller guards. Given the NBA’s tricky rules on physical play, defensive versatility is a must. DPOY candidate Draymond Green is known for being a great defender primarily because he’s able to effectively guard positions 1-5 on any given night. Ntilikina’s length allows him the versatility to guard three different positions which is rare for a point guard. Ntilikina is also willing to put in the work on defense picking up his man quickly and making stops which will be a valuable asset against sharp shooters in the league.

Quickness & offense

Ntilikina is known for having great foot work which allows him to be very quick when working around a defender to get to the rim. Combined with length, his quickness allows him to break free for open shots. In heavy traffic, Ntilikina’s height advantage provides him the ability to see over defenders, and play above the rim for easy baskets. Ntilikina also displays exceptional focus off ball by constantly working to make cuts to get open for scoring (we’ll talk more about this later.) Whereas other players might lose focus on scoring by looking to draw the foul at the rim, Ntilikina remains centered on scoring in the paint first—an attitude that goes hand in hand with proactive defense.

Weaknesses

Turnovers & being tentative

In my perspective, Ntilikina’s weaknesses stem mostly from being a young developing player. Most young players struggle with high turnovers coming into the professional arena as a result of being nervous under pressure to perform and adjusting to playing against a better talent pool. Like his peers, Ntilikina struggles with keeping the ball when approaching defenders bringing the ball down. He also shows this same tentative nature off the pick and roll displaying a tendency to bring his dribble to a halt under a swarm of defenders. This situation almost always produces a turnover, or at the very least, a jump ball.

Facilitation & poise

Learning to run an offense in the NBA is no small task. Successful point guards spend years working at fine tuning their craft. Facilitation takes an intimate knowledge of your teammates’ strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies that must be combined with intuition, patience, and proper timing. Collectively, these are a few of the qualities of a poised guard in the NBA. Poise doesn’t come overnight, and while some may have a predisposition for poise, it always needs to be developed. Ntilikina struggles with poise, and the ability to create at the NBA level. With confidence and experience he is likely to overcome these challenges and become a great guard in the league.

Fit with Nuggets

I listened to an interview with coach Mike Malone this week, and the Nuggets are placing one consideration above all others when reviewing draft and trade options. Does the player complement Nikola Jokic? Jokic is “the guy” for the Nuggets so everything must center around him and his ability to create. Overall, I like the way Ntilikina fits with the Nuggets. He likes to move and make cuts to get open on offense which will be a perfect pairing with Jokic’s passing skills and floor vision. Ntilikina may also be able to learn a thing or two from the Joker’s play making skills.

I also believe Ntilikina brings a huge defensive upside to the Nuggets. Denver doesn’t have offensive problems, they have defensive problems, and while I think this problem will be solved primarily by a gritty power forward the Nuggets need a solid defender on the perimeter. Ntilikina’s versatility makes him a good candidate for this role.

Projected draft spot

SB Nation - 8

Draft Express - 15

CBS Sports - (Forgave & Parrish) 9

Chad Ford - 8

Final thoughts

Ntilikina is a good choice for the Nuggets, and I think he would solve some of their current pressing issues. As I mentioned earlier, the Nuggets don’t have any problems on offense, but their defense is abysmal. Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay will still need a couple more years of intense development, and Ntilikina might be a great option to come in and bring a defensive habit to the Nuggets back court as they all develop together.

However, I don’t think Ntilikina is a good option for the Nuggets’ first pick. Denver has greater needs in the forward and backup center positions so by the time the Nuggets get to their second pick (in the second round) Ntilikina will be long gone. If Denver does have interest in bringing him on board, in all likelihood they will have to maneuver through a trade to get him.