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    Default Scouts, execs shred Knicks’ 1st-rounders as ‘soft’ — and worse

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    Scouts, execs shred Knicks’ 1st-rounders as ‘soft’ — and worse

    By Marc Berman November 29, 2018

    If the Knicks’ last two lottery picks were stocks, they’d be plummeting.

    It’s been an inglorious November for 2017 first-round selection Frank Ntilikina and 2018 first-rounder Kevin Knox. Ntilikina was selected eighth, Knox ninth — but neither has come close to playing up to that status, leaving league personnel, including some coaches, less than glowing in their assessments.

    According to those interviewed, Knox settles too fast for 3-point shots and refuses to move the ball. Ntilikina was cited for not having the wherewithal to play point guard, and one person even called the Frenchman an overrated defender. The word “soft’’ was used to describe both potential linchpins to the Knicks’ future.

    However, one team executive told The Post about Knox, 19, and Ntilikina, 20: “A lot of teams are abiding by ‘Trust the Process.’ It’s best to be patient on both guys.’’

    Knox is widely considered the better prospect, but some alarming traits have emerged. In fairness to the 6-foot-9 rookie from Kentucky, his body of work is based on 16 games; he missed seven contests with a sprained ankle.

    Still, he went from Las Vegas summer-league sensation to a regular-season bricklayer (32.5 percent shooting, 7.5 ppg). He shot 32.7 percent in preseason.

    “I don’t like how he’s playing,’’ an Atlantic Division scout said. “He’s looking for his shot right away. I like when he puts the ball on the ground. He’s a big boy, but he’s capable of getting closer to the basket than launching 3-pointers. He’s also got to wake up a little. There’s loose balls he can get to. He’s lazy on defense a bit.”

    One assistant coach echoed the sentiment.

    “Sometimes he looks like he doesn’t want to play,” the assistant said. “The evaluations coming out of Kentucky were not all good — that he didn’t have a motor and plays too soft. It’s not easy to teach that now. He doesn’t pass and only looks to shoot — not create. He’s shooting on like 80 percent of his touches.”

    There was a glimmer of hope Wednesday in the Knicks’ blowout loss in Philadelphia. In the fourth quarter, Knox made a tough driving shot that had coach David Fizdale doing a sideline jig.

    “People probably think I’m crazy because I celebrated down 30,’’ Fizdale said. “I saw something we’ve been working on carry over. He did a spin move and came out of it with a nice jump hook. We’ve been talking about doing that more and not just throwing it up off-balance. One baby step of player development.”

    An Eastern Conference scout thinks Knox acts younger than his age.

    “He’s talented, but some bad habits are ingrained from the AAU scene,’’ the scout said. “But he’ll be really good in two, three years with work and buying into a system. He’s 19 now going on 17.”

    Added a different Eastern Conference scout, “He just seems like all he wants to do is shoot.’’

    That’s polar opposite to Ntilikina, scoreless the past two games in shooting a combined 0 for 8 in Detroit and Philadelphia.

    Ntilikina was removed as the starting point guard nine games ago in favor of Emmanuel Mudiay, and comes off the bench but plays off the ball. Fizdale and team brass are agonizing over whether he’s a point guard or wing. General manager Scott Perry was not with the Knicks when Phil Jackson drafted Ntilikina, and Perry has added two point guards since his arrival — Mudiay and Trey Burke.

    “They gave him enough chances,’’ the Atlantic Division scout said. “The kid is very unaggressive and soft — no instincts to play point guard. He can make the pocket pass if it’s there, but sometimes it’s stolen. He’s playing horribly right now. I actually feel bad for the kid.”

    Said the Eastern Conference scout, “He has no offensive strength and really doesn’t have a position. He looks like he has the potential to be a good backup, but never a starter on a good team.”

    Ntilikina hasn’t reached double figures in 11 straight games. His scoring average is 5.9 points after he logged, coincidentally, 5.9 ppg in his rookie season. His career shooting percentage is .357.

    Ntilikina struck back at his critics, saying he does add offensive value.

    “[I make] the easy play, getting teammates involved,’’ Ntilikina said. “It’s not always about scoring. I’m going to do what I do to bring the most to the team. If I’m not scoring, I’ll try to do something else.”

    There are intangibles the 6-6 Ntilikina brings on the defensive end, but the Atlantic scout believes those are overstated.

    “When he got in the [76ers] game, he was embarrassed by [J.J.] Redick,’’ he said.

    “Redick got loose for two jumpers and then they put him on [T.J.] McConnell and he drove around him. Other scouts tell me he’s a great defender. I don’t see a great defender. He can be disruptive with length, but he’s slow to react. He’s a better-than-average defender, but I think his confidence is shot on offense. His passes aren’t doing anything.’’

    Tim Shea, a former European scout with the Knicks and Hornets and now an NBA consultant, said it’s too early, and that Ntilikina needs to get credit for doing some subtler things.

    “Ultimately [he] wants to make the right play,’’ Shea said. “The value of having someone like that on your NBA roster is immeasurable on the positive side of the team ledger. It’s contagious to the rest. Every time a player sees him do this, it’s a signal to the others. Coach is smart to keep him out there. He never was a shooter in his short pro career, but he never looked [to shoot] too much, either. Patience is the key with him.’’

    Regarding scoring, Ntilikina said, “It’s my next step to my growth. I know what I can be a couple of years from now. This is required for me to be aggressive and stay confident. It’s going to be all right. Story of the NBA and story of the young players coming in.’’

    The Knicks passed on rookie of the year Donovan Mitchell and Dennis Smith Jr. and opted for Ntilikina. They passed on Mikal and Miles Bridges for Knox.

    “The way Kevin’s playing, they could’ve taken either (of the) Bridges to shoot those 3s,’’ the Atlantic scout said.

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    Personnel for other franchises have a lot of incentive to anonymously trash our players. The only source who is actually named is Shea, who defended Ntilikina.

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    Originally Posted by htr10
    Personnel for other franchises have a lot of incentive to anonymously trash our players. The only source who is actually named is Shea, who defended Ntilikina.


    The player they're really calling on is Dotson(no slander with him) so there's probably some truth to this report on Knox and Knits...who had red flags coming into this league. Some rebuttal such narrative largely due to our own fan base hyping them up beyond a space they should've never been in. Knits is SOFF as they come, absolute fact! Whether or not it's a key component in his lack of progression is somewhat irrelevant because more than likely it centers around his overall basketball skill level, which is porous.

    Knits has some interest but it's not strong at the moment. It was last yr, remember teams kept calling us up to about deadline time but he's done nothing sense to improve his stock 1 iota. Knox has to stop going through the motions if his narrative is to change. His effort stinks...I don't see any 1-on-1 get the best of your opp in a workout from him at all. Maybe we should invite Miles Bridges to our practices and see how Knox responds since this was his calling card

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    There are teams in this league that would know what to do with Ntilikina and Knox to start turning them into NBA rotation players. We are not one of them.

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    Originally Posted by htr10
    There are teams in this league that would know what to do with Ntilikina and Knox to start turning them into NBA rotation players. We are not one of them.
    Conversly no one could get the most out of Kanter, Trier, Mudiay, THJR like we have. It's a matter of what player you're endeared to as a fan and what you would prefer to see. Knox and Knits haven't done themselves any favors in the early going. It's never too late but they need to wake up fast. Other teams aren't waiting on multiple prospects like we are. Knits should be showing his goods like Doncic is, you know a young kid who played overseas too without anyone going deep state about his physical metrics translating to success but more so ball skills translating

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    Originally Posted by Broadway
    Conversly no one could get the most out of Kanter, Trier, Mudiay, THJR like we have. It's a matter of what player you're endeared to as a fan and what you would prefer to see. Knox and Knits haven't done themselves any favors in the early going. It's never too late but they need to wake up fast. Other teams aren't waiting on multiple prospects like we are. Knits should be showing his goods like Doncic is, you know a young kid who played overseas too without anyone going deep state about his physical metrics translating to success but more so ball skills translating
    I underestimated Doncic. His skills are on a different level than a lot of these other overseas draft picks.

    Ntilikina needs to go to the G League if we are serious about keeping him a part of our future, in my opinion. Maybe Knox should go with him.

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    We should change Frank’s nickname from “Knits” to “Fredric JR” or something like that. Maybe FailJackson saw the writing on the wall and decided to screw us on his way out. Well it worked. I totally agree “Fredrick Jr” should be sent down to the G-league. It’s obvious he’s a fish out of water on the NBA level. Give Knox a chance to get his legs under him. You gotta remember Knox isn’t even 20 years old. But Fredric JR??? Send him down ASAP.

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    I don't get Fiz attitude on sending guys down to the GLeague, better guys than Ntilikina have spent time there, he's also partly to blame for his regression playing and using him like he does. Knox I'm cutting some slack because he's been in the NBA a couple of months, too soon for me to make a call on him.

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    I thought the whole purpose of the G League was to use it as a developmental league? Frank and Knox are better served spending a few weeks down there, PLAYING 30 minutes, rather than riding the pine up here.

    No shame in that.

    Fiz looks like an idiot dancing on sidelines after Knox scores a bucket when his team is trailing by 35 in the 4th...

    Knicks took knits and Knox bc they were so young, hoping to wait out LeBron and these super teams. But that doesn’t work if the raw kids don’t develop.

    I’m not worried about the talent... their motor and competive zeal is what worries me. Doesn’t seem to be any fire burning in the furnace.

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    Fiz the players coach on criticism of his young players.

    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Originally Posted by Broadway
    Conversly no one could get the most out of Kanter, Trier, Mudiay, THJR like we have. It's a matter of what player you're endeared to as a fan and what you would prefer to see. Knox and Knits haven't done themselves any favors in the early going. It's never too late but they need to wake up fast. Other teams aren't waiting on multiple prospects like we are. Knits should be showing his goods like Doncic is, you know a young kid who played overseas too without anyone going deep state about his physical metrics translating to success but more so ball skills translating

    I dont understand when u mention no one could get the most out of Kanter, Trier, Mudiay, and Timmy, because Kanter were a double-double player coming off the bench for OKC, and Timmy played his best ball as a Hawks, and Mudiay has been more inconsistent as a Knick then he was in Denver. And Trier combo-guard performance got a bad rap from scouts and went undrafted.
    David Fizdale has no system, no plays, and no offense/defense plan in his coaching. In every one of the 23 games the Knicks played this season we seen a 48 minute isolation performance from the Knicks as a Team.

    Everyone (Scouts/Executives) are pointing negativity at the 19 yr old Knick Knox, and the 20 yr old Knick Frank .. but know one is mentioning the Knicks offensive system and defensive system coach Fizdale has them playing in .. Individual isolation system.
    As a rookie .. Knox should be being taught to always look for the open man when the ball is in his hands.
    You know .. the pass first rule on offense for rookies, until the rookie establish certain spots where he like to get the ball to shoot from.
    Who do u blame for ROOKIE Knox shoot first performance, plus taking crazy 3-ball shots whenever he wants? And shooting 80% of the time he get touches? We blame it on the Knicks developing-coach David Fizdale !!!
    The 2018-19 Knicks are a Young-core rebuilding team, and the Knicks coaching-staff let two of our rookies perform reckless ball in two games vs two East contender teams (Pistons & 76er's) .. teams our coaching-staff should've scouted alongside our two rookies days before the back to back. Or .. the only team the Knicks scouted for as a team were the Memphis Grizzlies


    The Mavs coach Rick Carlyle stop Dennis Smith Jr. from being a shoot first guard in DSJr rookie preseason games.
    The Mavs coach Carlyle wanted Frank's pass-first PG performance in the 2018 draft.
    The reason why everyone were confuse on draft night when the Mavs drafted Trae Young, until they made the trade for Donicic pass first-game.

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    Originally Posted by mafra
    I thought the whole purpose of the G League was to use it as a developmental league? Frank and Knox are better served spending a few weeks down there, PLAYING 30 minutes, rather than riding the pine up here.

    No shame in that.

    Fiz looks like an idiot dancing on sidelines after Knox scores a bucket when his team is trailing by 35 in the 4th...

    Knicks took knits and Knox bc they were so young, hoping to wait out LeBron and these super teams. But that doesn’t work if the raw kids don’t develop.

    I’m not worried about the talent... their motor and competive zeal is what worries me. Doesn’t seem to be any fire burning in the furnace.
    The 2018-19 Knicks are considered a young-core team for a reason .......
    The purpose of a NBA team are to have NBA talent on the team .... Butt! NBA talent don't want to play for the Knicks !!!

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    Originally Posted by htr10
    I underestimated Doncic. His skills are on a different level than a lot of these other overseas draft picks.

    Ntilikina needs to go to the G League if we are serious about keeping him a part of our future, in my opinion. Maybe Knox should go with him.
    Maybe .. Perry need to hire Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups to the Knicks coaching staff to bring decent playing veterans to the Knicks through trade and free agency.
    Frank and Knox talent need NBA playing time .. Baker, Burke, Dotson, Trier, and MitchRob need NBA playing time too .. for all to improve their level of performance this season. Having only one establish veteran (Kanter) in the Knicks season rotation doesn't bring much success to the Knicks (7-16) record.
    As a Knicks fan i have to look at the level of Knick players Timmy, Mudiay, Vonleh, Mario, and Lance Thomas performance in Fizdale's isolation system .. and it never look good after losing 2 straight games

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    “I think I’ve got a 19-year-old and a 20-year-old trying to figure out the NBA, the league that’s full of the absolute best players in the world, the best coaches in the world, doing it in the absolute toughest market in America,” Fizdale said. “Give them a break. These guys are learning on the fly.

    “Whoever’s criticizing them, let me know how many people can become great at 19 and 20 while they’re being punched in the face and they’re learning it all at the same time. I don’t hear those critics. My kids come in here and bust their hump every day. Our organization, we love our kids. We put our arms around them. We’re in here just trying to get them better every single day. And they’re going to go through struggles. That’s just part of the deal."

    Knox has taken to spending extra time on the practice court and in the film room. And the video he has watched is not only of his own play, but also that of players who have gone before him. One of those is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who the Knicks will face Saturday at Madison Square Garden, and who endured his own struggles as a 19-year-old rookie with the Bucks. He averaged 6.8 points that season - less than what Knox is averaging now.

    "Giannis came into the league, he struggled,” Knox said. “He wasn’t nowhere near where he is now when he first came into the league. It took him a few years. The thing about him he stayed confident, he stayed working, he stayed in the gym and the weight room and got bigger, stronger, and knew right away he wasn’t going to be able to do what he’s doing now. … It took a few years but now he’s taking over the league, so that’s somebody I really look up to.”

    Knox insisted the criticism doesn’t bother him. He noted that critics outside his circle don’t affect him and that the criticism he hears from within he takes as teaching moments.

    “I love the criticism because that’s just going to help me go watch film and make sure I can get better at that,” Knox said. “The outside world, I don’t really pay attention to those people like that. But the coaches, Fizdale, he wants me to play harder and I’m going to go out there and play harder. My mom and dad, they want me to get to the rim so I’m gonna get to the rim. I’m going to listen to those people inside my circle because those are people I trust.”

    (Newsday)
    Last edited by mafra; Nov 30, 2018 at 19:20.

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    Orlando, Phoenix, Minnesota, Memphis, all reported to have shown interest in Ntilikina. The list probably doesn’t end there. Teams are starting to line up to see if we are stupid enough to give away Ntilikina.

    In my mind, our best options are to try to get a 1st round pick and shed a contract or send him to the G League to develop. If this front office pulls a PJ and moves him just to move him, so help me.

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