The top five point guards in the draft are Washington’s Markelle Fultz (6-5), UCLA’s Lonzo Ball (6-6), Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox (6-3), North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith (6-2) and France’s Frank Ntilikina (6-5). And since the Mavericks are guaranteed to have a Top 10 pick, they might at least wind up with Ntilikina. The NBA Lottery is Tuesday.
During the NBA Draft Combine conference call on Tuesday, ESPN college basketball analyst and international expert Fran Fraschilla believe the only thing keeping Ntilikina from being talked about more is the fact that he played basketball outside of the United States.
“The broader view here is there’s likely to be five point guards drafted in the first 10 (picks), which is going to be interesting,’’ Fraschilla said. "And most likely because of the fact that people don’t know (Ntilikina) like they know the four college kids, he’s going to go fifth (among the point guards drafted).”
Fultz and Ball are projected to be taken one-two in the June 22 NBA Draft, with Fox and Smith expected to go before Ntilikina. But Fraschilla cautioned that Ntilikina played in the Triangle offense — the one former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers coach Ph1l Jackson won 11 world titles with — during his tenure with Strasbourg IG.
“I hate to say this, because I‘m not a fan of the Triangle,” Fraschilla said. “I think in the modern NBA the spacing doesn’t work as well as it did in the old days, because (Ntilikina is) a triangle kind of player simply because he’s not really a (point guard) and he’s not really a (shooting guard).”
The 170-pound Ntilikina only averaged 5.2 points, two rebounds and 1.3 assists while shooting 43.5 percent from 3-point range in 17.9 minutes per contest for Strasbourg IG this season. Apparently, the biggest fascination with Ntilikina – his athleticism notwithstanding – is that he won’t turn 19 years old until July 28, thus leaving plenty of room for growth.
“He’s a guard,’’ Fraschilla said. "He can make decisions well, he shoots it well, he’s athletic.
“He could be a good defender, and you’re also looking at a kid who’s still 18 years old. His long-term potential as an NBA player is very good.”
Rookie Yogi Ferrell emerged as the Mavericks’ starting point guard after they discovered him this past January playing for the Long Island Nets in the National Basketball Association Development League. Ferrell, 23, averaged 11.3 points, 2.8 rebounds 4.3 assists and 29.1 minutes in 36 games this season.
Ferrell has one year remaining on his contract, and is generally listed as 6 feet tall. That makes him a liability on defense against the league’s taller point guards, but the Mavericks just might reach out in the draft to give him some assistance.
“I think Yogi made some huge strides and is a young developing player that we’re all internally excited about,” said Donnie Nelson, the Mavericks’ president of basketball operations. “Hopefully we can give him some help in the backcourt.”
And that help could wind up with Ntilikina becoming the player the Mavericks take in the first round of next month’s draft.
“I watched him last summer at the Jordan Gym in New York City and he made 27 out of 30 NBA three’s,” Fraschilla said. “The obligatory line when you don’t know somebody is, ‘Oh, he’s a really good athlete, but he’s not a great shooter,’ and he’s dispelling that this year in France shooting over 40 percent from the international three.
“He doesn’t have the polish of a Fultz or Ball, or the speed or raw athleticism of Fox or Smith. But he has the look and the feel of an NBA guard when he grows up.”