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Frank Ntilikina is an intriguing work in progress

Ntilikina didn’t stand out with the Mavericks, but he did show he’s got something to offer.

NBA 2022 Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Season in review

Frank Ntilikina didn’t resurrect his career with the Dallas Mavericks, but he did prove he can hang on an NBA roster. That sounds trivial, but it’s important. There are some in his draft class who are already out of the league (I won’t name names, because it makes me sad).

Ntilikina appeared in 58 games for the Mavericks, up from the 33 he appeared in for the New York Knicks in 2020-21. Ntilikina didn’t stand out for Dallas, but he at least saw some playing time when the situation was right. In New York, he got consistent DNP-Coach’s Decisions.

Ntilikina averaged 4.1 points and 1.2 assists per game in 2021-22. He shot 34% from deep on 1.9 attempts per game. That’s down from his last season with the Knicks, when he shot 47% on 1.5 attempts per game, but still good enough for his second-best 3-point shooting percentage of his career. Ntilikina did post a career-high shooting percentage on 2-point shots, however, at 46%.

It probably wasn’t the season Ntilikina or the Mavericks were hoping for, but he didn’t flame out, either. Ntilikina played good defense when called upon, and hit some key 3-pointers in a few regular season games. He grabbed Josh Green’s playoff minutes halfway through the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Phoenix Suns. That was huge, because the Mavericks were searching for someone, anyone, to give their perimeter players a few minutes of rest. Ntilikina was able to provide that relief, and more.

Best game

Ntilikina’s best performance of the year came on Christmas day against the Utah Jazz. The Mavericks were in the throes of a Covid-19 outbreak and needed all hands on deck. With Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Trey Burke out, the Mavericks were short of guards. Ntilikina stepped up in a big way, starting and playing the second-most minutes on the team.

Ntilikina scored 17 points, grabbed four rebounds, and dished out one assist. He only turned the ball over once, despite the big minutes, and ended up a +7 for the game. The Mavericks ended up losing to the Jazz, but Ntilikina was part of a group that kept the game competitive.

Contract status

Ntilikina is heading into the second year of a two-year minimum contract that will pay $2 million. The contract is not guaranteed.

Looking ahead

With the non-guaranteed contract, Ntilikina’s future with the Mavericks is anything but secure. If Dallas has a chance to improve their roster and have to part with Ntilikina to do so, they won’t hesitate. But there’s a sense the front office wants to see if Ntilikina can develop in a more stable environment than what he experienced in New York. Unless his salary is needed in a trade or a better option comes along, Ntilikina should be back in Dallas next season.

Grade: B-

Ntilikina was brought in as a project, and while he didn’t have a break out season, his defense gives the Mavericks something to think about. If he can ever figure out his shot, or some other way to contribute on offense, then Dallas will have a good young player on a cheap contract. That’s exactly what they need right now.