Phoenix Suns Draft Watch: Frank Ntilikina

Jun 23, 2016; New York, NY, USA; A general view of a video board displaying all thirty draft picks in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 23, 2016; New York, NY, USA; A general view of a video board displaying all thirty draft picks in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /

The draft watch continues this week with the French phenom and pride of Belgium.

In our Mock Draft 1.0 we project Ntilikina to the New York Knicks with the 8th overall pick.

Player Comparison

Frank Ntilikina is compared by to current Atlanta Hawks misfit Dennis Schroeder and to Seattle SuperSonics legend Gary Payton.  Because Frank plays for Strasbourg his stat line won’t blow you away: 5 points, 2 rebounds, and about an assist per game. For those of you unfamiliar with the socialist tendencies of international basketball, those players with more experience tend to get the majority of minutes regardless of whether or not they are superior players. As a result, he averages a meager 16 minutes per game.

Similar to the comparison with De’Aaron Fox, the Dennis Schroeder comparison is purely based on style or on the fact that they’re both European. In either case, it’s a bad comparison. The Gary Payton comparison is unfair, but the physical tools are similar. Standing at 6’5″ Ntilikina is an inch taller than Payton and comes in about 10 lbs lighter at a 170 lbs weight. Similar to Payton, Frank is an excellent defender who uses a massive wingspan to guard multiple positions. He rotates like a seasoned veteran and understands how to play lanes with a high level of intelligence. Unlike Payton, Ntilikina lets his game do all the talking.

While his per game averages aren’t impressive, several individual performances are. When given playing time in FIBA’s under 18 Euro Championship, Frank became the go-to scorer under the brightest lights. In the semi final game against Italy he posted 23 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, 5 steals, and a block while shooting 8/11 from the floor. In the finals against Lithuania he scored an impressive 31 points with 3 assists, 4 rebounds, and a steal while shooting 11-16 from the field. While he is more Dante Exum than Gary Payton at this point, his ceiling is sky high on both ends of the court.

Why the Suns Would Want Him

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  • As we have said in what seems like every post over the last six years, Eric Bledsoe is going to have to move on sooner than later. The Suns could view Ntilikina as the replacement of the future and there’s a lot of attraction to that thought. The most compelling of these is that Devin Booker is a horrid defender and Frank could help cover up that weakness by switching off onto players that are blowing by Booker’s concrete shoes.

    At a full 6’5″ with the chance to get even taller over the next year, Ntilikina could easily switch from quick point guards over to shooting guards without worrying about taller players shooting over him. Only Lonzo Ball is a taller point guard in this draft and there’s a lot to be said for replacing shorter players like Bledsoe, Ulis, and Knight with a taller more versatile point.

    The number of steals Ntilikina has racked up in competition is something the Suns haven’t had since Jason Kidd. With a team that loves to run the break and has above average finishers like Chriss and Booker, the ability to steal could have magnified benefits. We all know Ryan McDonough loves European prospects and this could be one of his latest finds.

    Why the Suns Would Not Want Him

    As good as Ntilikina has played, he hasn’t done it against elite talent consistently. Until he does, you don’t really know what you’re going to get. His seven-foot plus wingspan is a huge asset, but it has allowed him to get a plethora of steals without having to move his feet. That works fine in a U-18 tournament, but it’s not going to fly when Chris Paul or Kyrie Irving have the ball on a string.

    For all the good height, the 170lbs is too small to play good defense against elite NBA athletes.  When the Suns play the Raptors, Ntilikina would have to switch up to DeMar DeRozan and would be giving up 50lbs in the process. I can hear DeRozan screaming “mouse in the house” while backing him into the post already. Even small players like Damian Lillard will have 30lbs on Frank. He will have to spend years bulking up before he can reach expectations. I’m not sure the fanbase will be that patient with a point guard and shooting guard who can’t play defense.

    The other challenge is obviously draft position. He is likely to fall into the 5-10 range which will put him outside of value for the Suns. Compared to proven players like De’Aaron Fox or Jayson Tatum, he is a massive risk and not worth the gamble.

    Next: Suns Draft Watch: Should the Suns Draft De'Aaron Fox?


    Much like Dragan Bender, I think Ntilikina is undervalued because he has had limited playing time in an antiquated and unintelligent European system. Seven years from now, I believe he will be one of the top five players in his draft class and given the quality of this draft, that’s saying something. He’d be a great fit for the Suns if they were able to get a second pick in the first round and prior drafted one of the top non-point guard prospects. I would love to see him come to Phoenix and learn from Barbosa, another lengthy foreigner who was once compared to Payton. It is just a matter of getting him in the right spot for the right return on investment. I don’t see it happening, but if the Suns can swing it, Frank would be a nice addition to the young core.