Insider: Knicks Keeping Former Lottery Pick Would Be ‘Stunning’

Frank Ntilikina

Getty Derrick Rose and Frank Ntilikina defend Talen Horton-Tucker during a May 11 game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The New York Knicks will look to ride the momentum from their surprisingly successful season this summer in all of the draft, free agency, and the trade market.

The number one focus? Point guard, with all of Derrick Rose, Elfrid Payton, and Frank Ntilikina headed for free agency.

That could certainly change if some or all of them return for next season, but as of today, no fan would be too shocked if all three headed elsewhere this offseason.

Particularly Ntilikina, the eighth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, whose career has seen more lows than highs.

Mike Vorkunov and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic broke down the guard’s future in their latest reporting and ruled out one of the former lottery pick with ease.

‘The Ntilikina Era Has Ended’

Fans had been hopeful that Frank Ntilikina would break what they’re calling ‘the Charlie Ward curse.’

The 26th pick from the 1994 NBA Draft, he’s the last rookie to sign a second contract with the New York Knicks.

Vecenie feels strongly (via The Athletic) that it isn’t meant to be:

Ntilikina has a qualifying offer of $8.3 million that would allow the team to have restricted free agency rights over him. We’d be pretty stunned if the team extended that offer, meaning it’s likely he just hits free agency. His cap hold is also up over $18 million, so that won’t be of use to the Knicks, either. It seems likely the Ntilikina era has ended in New York.

The 22-year old guard, who’s played for four head coaches in four years, will undoubtedly get a flyer to play elsewhere for next season, solely based on his defensive aptitude.

Ironically, that same defensive IQ wasn’t enough to get him regular minutes over the Knicks’ five-game series against the Atlanta Hawks, where Trae Young averaged 29.2 points per game.

Ntilikina appeared for just 3:31 out of the entire series, including one two-second span in Game Three.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau once called the guard’s status with the team “situational.” Now it looks like the situation may call for a parting of ways.

If it is the end for Frank Ntilikina and the New York Knicks, his tenure will end at 211 games played over four seasons, and averages of 5.5 points, 2.7 assists, and two rebounds per game.

Randle Extension Will Headline Offseason

Point guard is the position of need, sure, but the New York Knicks’ offseason will be headlined by Julius Randle.

The first-time All-Star and pending All-NBA member is up for an extension following his best career year.

Randle finished the 2020-2021 campaign averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and six assists per game.

Now, the Knicks can offer him a deal for four years and $104 million, or the two sides can opt to wait until next summer when he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.

But as Vorkunov writes (via The Athletic), it’s not a simple situation by any means:

The extension offer would be based on just one season of high-level play and after a weird, condensed, COVID-19 affected season. And it would kick in next summer, so it’s essentially a five-year deal that would take Randle through his age-31 season. It would be a strong bet that Randle remains this good a shooter, defender and scorer instead of regressing to his prior form. This is all without getting into the discussion of whether Randle should take that deal, too.

Whether or not they strike a deal will almost fully determine the rest of the New York Knicks’ offseason agenda.

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