DALLAS - Frank Ntilikina, who the Dallas Mavericks granted a second chance that comes with the front office having guaranteed the first season of a two-year deal, is an “incredible” defensive talent, in the view of new coach Jason Kidd.
Next step: Can Ntilikina become at least “credible” on offense?
The unveiling of “French Frank” takes another step forward as NBA preseason begins - though the Mavs say he (along with Dwight Powell and Dorian Finney-Smith, as a matter of rest, will sit out the opener vs. Utah). Soon, though - Ntilikina - the 6-4 guard with the freakish 7-1 wingspan - will get a chance to work in relief of Luka Doncic.
Or maybe, if the Mavs hit the jackpot on a player Dallas considered selecting in the 2017 NBA Draft, a chance to work alongside Luka.
“You look at his defense, it’s incredible what he can do with his length,” Kidd said (hat-tip Mavs.com.) “And then on the offensive end, I think he’s starting to become a little more comfortable shooting the ball.”
In his work with the New York Knicks (who chose him with the eighth overall pick in 2017, just ahead of the Mavs’ choice of Dennis Smith Jr.), there were signs of improvement. Most notable: Ntilikina shot an impressive 23-of-48 (47.9 percent) on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers last season.
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The sample size is small. But catch-and-shoot in Dallas? With Luka at the wheel?
That can work.
Frank himself said of defensive practice, “That’s the side of the ball game we can improve to reach our goals. To focus on that side of the ball is good for us.”
That’s important in practice to challenge Doncic and the first-teamers. But in terms of helping Dallas win games?
It would speak to Dallas’ ability to develop talent if Ntilikina, who just turned 23 as he enters his fifth NBA season, can become a useful two-way weapon.
“He’s still young,” Kidd said. “So I think we’re getting him at the right time on his journey to have success for him. We got lucky to get him.”