MIAMI — With the best way all of it unfolded across the draft – with the best way it pitted two long-time rivals of thoughts video games in opposition to one another in Phil Jackson and Mark Cuban – the Mavericks’ consideration to Frank Ntilikina smelled of deception.
Accompanying the regular studies of Dallas’ curiosity was of Dallas proprietor Mark Cuban posing with Ntilikina in France, arm-in-arm. It was posted on Twitter. Then it was leaked the Mavericks had been hiring Ntilikina’s coach from France, Vincent Collet, for his or her Summer season League workforce. That by no means occurred. As an alternative, the Mavericks employed the previous faculty coach of Dennis Smith Jr., who they drafted ninth general — one spot after the Knicks took Ntilikina.
On Friday, the NY Occasions known as Dallas’ curiosity in Ntilikina “a ruse,” with the implication being that Cuban baited the Knicks to choose the Frenchman over the Mavericks’ most well-liked level guard, Smith Jr. Cuban denied that to the Each day Information.
“Not a stunt in any respect,” Cuban wrote Friday. “We like Frank fairly a bit. If Dennis had been chosen there was an excellent likelihood we might have taken Frank.”
Requested why Collet by no means made it to Dallas’ Summer season League employees, Cuban claimed ignorance.
“I wasn’t concerned in that in any respect,” he wrote.
Even when he did not purposely tempt the Knicks into drafting Ntilikina, Cuban has cause to brag about the way it turned out. Smith Jr. has proven flashes of stardom, able to posting triple-doubles and profitable the Slam Dunk contest. His matchup with Ntilikina on Sunday – when the Mavs host the Knicks – would be the topic of nice intrigue. Not solely are followers and media continually evaluating the 2 level guards, but in addition LeBron James, who created a stir in by claiming the Knicks screwed up by passing on Smith Jr.
Facet by aspect, the rookie statistics inform a lopsided story favoring Smith Jr. The 20-year-old is averaging 13.eight factors on 40 p.c capturing with four.four. assists and four.1 rebounds. He notched his first triple-double final week.
Ntilikina remains to be coming off the bench for the Knicks and, earlier than Friday’s recreation in opposition to the Warmth, was averaging 5.9 factors, three.three assists and a pair of.2 boards whereas capturing 37 p.c. He has proven nice promise as a defensive specialist, however the largest challenge has been a reluctance to interrupt down the opposition with dribble penetration. Scouts have even recommended that Ntilikina is better-suited because the off-guard, however coach Jeff Hornacek mentioned his lumps as some extent guard are necessary.
“I would hate to take him off the ball. He is 19 years previous. It is good expertise for him,” Hornacek mentioned. “He is capable of get to that midrange fairly simply within the excessive pick-and-rolls. Coming off on the aspect, yeah, that could possibly be okay. However Ron does that too. However I like the truth that Frank at this level at 19 years previous is actually studying that time guard spot.”
The Knicks interviewed Smith Jr. earlier than the draft but it surely appeared like a clumsy expertise. Not solely did Smith Jr. decline to carry a person work out with the membership or share his medical data, the NC State mentioned the Knicks pressured him into consuming octopus.
“That they had me eat some octopus, like an precise octopus tentacle,” he instructed the Information in August.