What does the future hold in store for two of the Knicks young gaurds? This is a million-dollar question. So far in their young careers, Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr have seen many struggles. Smith Jr couldn’t stay healthy this season and lost confidence, while Ntilikina was afraid to play aggresively. Obviously firing the head coach after a 4-21 start to the season is tough on a team, especially when it’s David Fizdale, who the players loved. Months later the Knicks hired Tom Thibodeau. Thibs has a terrific track record in development. So what is the future for Ntilikina and Smith Jr?
I’ll make this clear, Dennis Smith Jr is nowhere near Derrick Rose, but they are certainly comparable in specific areas. The two of them are athletic point guards who can slash and create. However, it was a tough season for Smith Jr, who was once compared to Rose. This season he experienced a death in his family, along with a few injuries. Rose was once in a tough situation similar to that. He tore his ACL in 2012, and in 2017 he was out of the league for months. He even considered retirement. Rose has credited Thibs for being one to believe in his resurgence. Lately, he has had quite the career revival. Smith Jr has the talent to be the next Thibodeau product. He has a lot of characteristics in his game that Thibs likes, slashing to the basket amongst those. Thibodeau will have to bring Smith Jr’s confidence and mojo back first. There’s still time for Smith Jr, and if there’s anyone to get the most out of him, it’s Tom Thibodeau.
In 2017, Frank Ntilikina was the 8th pick in the draft under Phil Jackson. He is currently the longest tenured Knick along with Damyean Dotson. Ntilikina is now playing under his fourth coach in just three years. Throughout his time as a Knick, Frank has had trouble getting consistent playing time, and has faced injuries as well. It’s no secret that Ntilikina is a defensive-minded guard. While he is an elite defender, he’s had trouble developing on the offensive end. Ntilikina lacks aggressiveness on offense. He has shown flashes, like scoring a career high 20 points, but nothing has changed. Frank shot 32% from three, and 39% FG. Thibodeau will likely use Frank more off ball. If he wasn’t so passive on offense, he would be a very skilled 3&D player. Thibs is known as a defense-minded coach, and Ntilikina has the potential to build a solid foundation under him. With Thibs’ trust in him, Frank might be able to develop offensively as well. Frank certainly has the potential to become a key piece.
Though Smith Jr and Ntilikina have completely different skill sets, Tom Thibodeau certainly can bring the most out of both of them.