- Ntilikina has struggled in the first two years of his career, showing occasional flashes but mostly looking raw and likely to be traded from the Knicks, who selected him with the eighth pick in the 2017 draft.
- Heading into a crucial third season in which he must prove his place in the NBA, Wednesday's performance was the type of game Ntilikina will need to put together consistently in 2019-20.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories .
The New York Knicks may have been the only team that got some enjoyment of Team USA's early exit at the hands of France at the 2019 FIBA World Cup .
Third-year Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina played a key role in helping France end USA Basketball's 58-game win streak with NBA players in international basketball.
Ntilikina could state his case for having been the best guard on the floor in the fourth quarter, ahead of even stars like Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell. The 21-year-old Ntilikina helped swing momentum back toward France in the final frame with his full-court pressure on Team USA's guards, plus a surprising dose of offense, including a buzzer-beating dagger with 2:15 left to play.
Ntilikina's stat line was modest 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting, 1 rebound, and 3 assists but he was a +22 for the game, the second-best mark of any player on either team.
The eighth pick in the 2017 draft, Ntilikina is entering a crucial third season with the Knicks. After an up-and-down rookie season in which he showed flashes, but also looked raw in major areas of the game, Ntilikina struggled badly in Year 2 with the Knicks. He lost playing time to other guards, was played out of position, and struggled with injuries down the stretch. The Knicks reportedly listened to trade offers for him at the deadline and before the draft.
The flashes Ntilikina showed on Wednesday suggest he could turn a corner in Year 3. Ntilikina looks unlikely to ever become a true point guard, but his ball-handling looked improved, his jumper smoother, and his defense his NBA calling-card aggressive and consistent.
If Ntilikina can continue to hound opposing guards, shoot at an even league-average clip from distance, and attack close-outs on offense, he'd be a valuable asset in today's NBA.
League sources who spoke to Business Insider last season remained fairly high on Ntilikina , though mostly because of his age. Some were wary of how high Ntilikina's ceiling could be. At this stage of his career, Ntilikina doesn't have to become an overnight superstar just an above-average role player.
Performances like Wednesday against the U.S. showed that Ntilikina has the tools to be an impact player. If he can put it all together consistently, he could be at the core of the Knicks' rebuild rather than on the outskirts of it.
- Read more:
- Dennis Rodman talks the modern NBA, advice for today's athletes, and LeBron vs. Jordan
- Ben Simmons has been showing off an improved jumper that could become the key to the 76ers' season
- LeBron James has played with many former All-Stars past their peak Here are all 14, ranked
- The 2019-20 NBA schedule is out here are the most anticipated games after a summer that rocked the league
- The sister of NBA star Kawhi Leonard has reportedly been charged with murder in an 84-year-old woman's death
- LeBron James says he was 'literally shedding tears' when he found out that Nike would be naming a new building after him
- Lakers' Alex Caruso received a 'random' drug test after edited gym photos went viral