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The Mavericks’ Frank Ntilikina experiment did not work

Signing Ntilikina was a good move, but it just didn’t work out.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks had the right idea, it just didn’t work out. It’s like that sometimes. Signing a former lottery pick to a minimum contract is a low risk, high reward move, and giving Frank Ntilikina last season a look was a solid choice. Bringing him back this year, though, was a mistake.

At one time, I was a Ntilikina believer. Now I am an apostate. I have left the faith forever. The problem is, Ntilikina just can’t do anything on offense. He doesn’t shoot well, or pass at a high level, or get to the basket, or even cut off the ball. So despite being a solid defensive guard, Ntilikina is hard to keep on the court.

Ntilikina scored 2.9 points and dished out 1.2 assists per game this season. He only shot 25 percent from deep, part of what kept him from gaining significant time in the rotation this year. The Mavericks gave him every opportunity to gain a foothold on the roster, needing a third playmaker to help facilitate the offense.

“People forget we have Frank, who will be better this year,” Cuban told Dallas Basketball last offseason. “We went into last season with Luka, JB, and Frank and turned our season around more than a month before the trade deadline.”

Within a month, the Mavericks had forgotten about Frank, too. They signed Facu Campazzo to be that third guard, then cut him. Next came Kemba Walker, who was also cut within a short time. Dallas was desperate for someone to pick up 10-15 minutes per game, and still didn’t trust Ntilikina.

It’s not clear what the Mavericks saw that made them think Ntilikina could fill that role for them, but they quickly changed course in training camp. Missing on Ntilikina isn’t a problem, but doubling down on a second year was a mistake.

Best game

Ntilikina’s best performance came early in the year against the Portland Trail Blazers. In that mid-December game, he put up eight points, three rebounds, and one assist in a win. He was also a +11 for the game.

Contract details

Ntilikina is a unrestricted free agent, coming off the second year of a two-year deal of $3.8 million.

Looking ahead

If Ntilikina is on this team next season I will hire Mavs Man to attend a party at my house and scream at him for two hours. Is it his fault? No. Well, maybe. Regardless, there is no reason for Ntilikina to be on the Mavericks roster, or any NBA roster next season. If he’s back in Dallas, something has gone terribly wrong.

Grade: F

The fact that Ntilikina hasn’t cultivated a single above average offensive skill after six years in the league is astonishing. If he could hit corner threes, or get to the rim at will, or be a solid playmaker, he’d be playable in small doses. Instead, he’s just kind of there on the court, taking up space. It was a disappointing season all around for the Mavericks and Ntilikina.