Ntilikina arrives in New York with his mother, Jacqueline Mukarugema | Photo by Corey Sipkin
For quite some time now the Dallas Mavericks have been courting top 10 NBA Draft prospect Frank Ntilikina, highlighted by a meeting in Italy that included a Dallas contingent of general manager Donnie Nelson, director of player personnel Tony Ronzone, and of course owner Mark Cuban a couple weeks ago.
Conversely for the Mavs, the French prodigy has also been linked to the New York Knicks who hold the eight pick in Thursday’s draft, just one pick ahead of Dallas. Ntilikina is on record saying he believes his game would be a fit for the Knicks evolving triangle offense and some experts believe president Phil Jackson intends to nab Ntilikina.
“I watch a lot of [NBA] basketball games,” Ntilikina told the New York Post. “The Knicks [have] a good history. The game they play — the triangle offense — is close to the game I play in France with my team. A lot of movement. I think to play over there, I would fit with them. It would be great to play for them.”
On Tuesday, Ntilikina arrived with his mother Jacqueline Mukarugema at Liberty International Airport in Newark, New York for the NBA Draft which takes place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Ntilikina skillfully played role as wide-eyed neutral, NBA prospect eager to play wherever he’s drafted while denying reports that he has a destination favorite when he addressed reporters.
“I have no preference like that,’’ Ntilikina told The Post. “All I need is to be in a really good project for me. I know it will all then depend on me. The NBA draft is just a step to the real goal — to make a big career in the NBA. I just want to be in a good project and atmosphere.’’
At 18 years-old, Ntilikina has been minimized to just a role player on Strasbourg, a club team in France’s top professional division, averaging just 15.5 minutes a game, and just 5.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists at the international club level.
Nevertheless, the Mavs remain enamored by his 6-foot-5, 7-foot wingspan, with versatility on both ends of the floor with his persistence on defense and a pass-first mentality on offense. Dallas has even hired his Strasbourg coach, Vince Collett, to assist with the Mavs Orlando Summer League squad in what appears to be an all-in move for Ntilikina’s services should he fall to Dallas.
Where Ntilikina ends up on Thursday night is anybody’s guess at this point.
“We will see — my family and agents will take care of it,’’ Ntilikina said.
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