New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina exuding confidence in FIBA World Cup

(Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images) /

New York Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina has been playing well during the 2019 FIBA World Cup for Team France.

New York Knicks fans are as passionate as they come. They care deeply about their team despite their lack of success on the court. That usually leads to some intense exchanges on social media.

When perusing through a platform such as Twitter, you will find Knicks fans engaged in plenty of back and forths. Usually, it is with Brooklyn Nets fans, who have found a successful formula to build their roster up.

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When it comes to Knicks fans pitted against each other, Carmelo Anthony is a popular topic. However, out of the current players on the team, there isn’t anyone that quite gets the juices flowing as much as Frank Ntilikina.

With the No. 8 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Knicks selected Ntilikina. Since then he has become the topic of plenty of discussions among Knicks fans.

It was the final roster move by Phil Jackson, who was relieved of his duties as team president a few weeks after the draft.

That could play a part in why some people have some disdain for him. His play has been relatively poor, and some people are ready to throw the towel in on the Frenchman.

New York has been pushing for a Ntilikina trade for months. They were shopping him at the trade deadline and during the 2019 NBA Draft but nothing came to fruition.

After a difficult sophomore season, in which his stats dropped across the board and he battled injury, the people who wanted to see him traded had a lot of ammunition on their side. But, Ntilikina has been winning those people back and proving his backers right this summer.

Ntilikina has spent the summer with the French National team preparing for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Throughout the World Cup, he has exuded the type of confidence that Knicks fans can only hope he brings back with him for the regular season.

Ntilikina doesn’t have eye-popping statistics, averaging 7.7 points, 2.7 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. He has shot the ball well, making 44.4 percent of his shot overall, including 7-of-17 (41.2 percent) from the 3-point line.

Even more encouragingly, he has made all seven of his free throw attempts.

Ntilikina has been an important part of Team France. He is fifth on the team in efficiency and fifth in plus/minus ratio. Most importantly, Ntilikina has found his groove again defensively and Team USA witnessed it first hand.

During his rookie season, Ntilikina was lauded for his defensive efforts. His offense left much to be desired, but he was already rated as one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA. In his second season, his performance on that end of the court dropped off.

Hopefully, his performance in the World Cup is a sign of things to come.

Ntilikina absolutely shut down Kemba Walker, the leading scorer this tournament for Team USA. Walker shot 2-of-9 in the game against France, missing all four of his 3-point attempts and finishing with a team-worst tying -13 plus/minus ratio.

Ntilikina shot 5-of-9, including a step-back to help keep France in the lead late in the game.

Just how important was Ntilikina to France’s success against Team USA? Ntilikina checked into the game with 8:11 remaining in the fourth quarter with Team USA up seven.

France would end up winning the game by 10 points and Ntilikina scored seven points himself, which was more than Walker and Donovan Mitchell scored in the final quarter combined.

Ntilikina was a huge difference-maker in that game, as his defense stifled Team USA’s backcourt and he scored the ball efficiently as well.

The Knicks can only hope that Ntilikina brings the same confidence with him when training camp begins in a few weeks. New York needs to give him reps in the backcourt, not just stick him on the wing spotting up in a corner.

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There is still plenty of potential to be unlocked when it comes to Ntilikina. Hopefully, they are able to accomplish it themselves and don’t give up on him too soon.