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Can Frank Ntilikina Build on Mavs Playoff Flashes?

With Jalen Brunson gone, and Spencer Dinwiddie joining Luka Doncic in the Mavs’ starting lineup, Frank Ntilikina has a chance to become a staple in Jason Kidd’s rotation.

With training camp a little more than a month away, the Dallas Mavericks still haven't addressed the specific need for a secondary playmaker after losing Jalen Brunson in free agency. 

Yes, the Mavs will, in theory, replace Brunson's points production with the additions of Christian Wood and JaVale McGee, but without another reliable ball-handler, Luka Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie could be worn down by the time the postseason comes around again.

If Dallas isn't going to address the need via free agency or trade, it will need to hope some in-house guys can step up. We've already talked about how third-year player Josh Green, who is an underrated passer, could be poised for a breakout season, but could Frank Ntilikina be another name to keep an eye on?

From an offensive standpoint, the Mavs probably shouldn't hold their breath, as Ntilikina has been used more as a 3-and-D guard instead of distributor. There were only eight games last season where he recorded at least three assists, and after shooting nearly 48 percent from deep for the New York Knicks in the 2020-21 campaign, that dropped to 34 percent during his first year in Dallas.

The 24 year old didn't get much run in the regular season or the playoffs, but he showed flashes of the impact he can have on games when the Mavs upset the top-seeded Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference semifinals ... especially with his defense. His individual efforts guarding Devin Booker and Chris Paul were encouraging, and he recorded four steals to set the tone defensively in the Mavs' 113-86 win in Game 6.

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Ntilikina still has a lot to prove, but if he can keep his 3-point percentage around 35 percent or higher, as well as keep up the defensive tenacity he displayed in the postseason, he could really help the Mavs bolster their bench.

As good as that would be for Dallas, though, it still doesn't fix the specific problem created by Brunson leaving. Is it too late for Goran Dragic to pull a 2015 DeAndre Jordan?

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