With just over a week until the start of training camp, the Dallas Mavericks have signed free agent guard Frank Ntilikina to a two-year deal with a team option in the second year. While Ntilikina wasn’t the biggest name on the open market this summer, he could end up being the best move that Dallas made all summer.
Just a few years ago, Ntilikina was a lottery pick, selected No. 8 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. The Mavericks had quite a bit of interest in the French guard, but he was taken one pick before their own.
Either way, they’ll now get an opportunity to roster Ntilikina, who will provide the defensive edge that Dallas desperately needs. Although he only stands at 6-foot-4, he has a 7-foot-1 wingspan and has proven to be a defensive menace on the perimeter.
Ntilikina is not known for scoring, but that’s not what Dallas needs. The Mavs have been historically great on offense during the Luka Doncic era, but have struggled on defense. While Ntilikina will likely never be a starting guard at this time, he’s versatile enough to play with starters effectively or with the bench unit.
In fact, when playing alongside Doncic, Ntilikina could fit nicely, guarding opposing teams’ best players without taking shots away from the superstar guard.
During his four-year NBA career, Ntilikina has averaged just 5.5 points on 5.7 shot attempts per game. In a scoring league, it’s impressive when players can make an impact without putting up points. The ability to make winning plays without scoring is especially rare for young players, who often feel the need to score if they’re going to be successful.
'Bounce-Back!': Doncic, Hardaway Jr. Lead Mavs' Rout of Raptors
Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis leveled-up in the Dallas Mavericks' second game of the season, as the team captured a first win in Toronto against the Raptors since 2014.
Could Mavs Still Pull Off Trade For Raptors' Goran Dragic?
The Dallas Mavericks attempted to trade for Toronto Raptors guard Goran Dragic in the NBA offseason but came up empty. Is it too late to pull off a deal?
Will "Terrible" End In Toronto? GAMEDAY: Mavs vs. Raptors
The Dallas Mavericks look for their first win of the 2021-22 season.
On the perimeter, Ntilikina will make life difficult for guards on opposing teams. With his insane wingspan, he’s got the length to not only lock up on-ball, but he also clogs passing lanes and deflects passes when defending away from the ball.
What’s perhaps most intriguing about Ntilikina is the untapped potential he has, especially considering he’s in a brand new situation. Often, a new team and new situation can completely change career trajectories in a positive way.
Dallas should feel good knowing that he will already bring value based on what he’s known for as a young player, but also has an extreme amount of upside with how early he is in his career. Just 23 years old, Ntilikina has never played more than 22 minutes per game, as it can be argued that New York never gave him the chance to become the player he projected to be when he was a lottery pick.
With that in mind, although he’s never played big minutes in games, he does have 55 starts as an NBA player under his belt. He’s still a very young player, but does have the experience it takes to contribute to a winning team.
Ntilikina had the opportunity to play in the recent Tokyo Olympics, representing France. He looked solid for the team in limited minutes, showing off his defensive ability.
As the Mavericks look to take the next step as a team this season and get out of the first round of the playoffs, Ntilikina could prove to be a key piece of the rotation as a defensive specialist. But no matter what, he’s a no-risk signing that has a ton of potential with no downside to the deal.