The Knicks extended one of the worst streaks of draft failures when they didn't re-sign a 23-year-old fan favorite
- The Knicks renounced the free-agent rights to the 2017 first-round draft pick Frank Ntilikina.
- The Knicks have not re-signed their past 18 first-round picks to a second, multiyear contract.
- Ntilikina's defense and potential won over many fans, but he was never consistent with the Knicks.
The New York Knicks this week continued a long-running, odious streak of discarding first-round draft picks.
The Knicks renounced the free-agent rights to Frank Ntilikina, the eighth overall pick in the 2017 draft. While the Knicks could technically still re-sign him - they needed to create cap space for other moves - it looks as though both sides are going to move on.
Dating back to the 1994 draft, when the Knicks took point guard Charlie Ward 26th overall, the Knicks have not re-signed a first-round draft pick to a multiyear deal. Ntilikina is the 18th first-round pick who did not stay with the team long-term.
(The Knicks did re-sign David Lee, their first-round pick in 2005, but only to a one-year deal. They sent him to the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade the following offseason.)
Ntilikina was the final draft pick of Phil Jackson, who was fired a week later after taking a guard he saw as an ideal fit for his triangle offense. Amazingly, Ntilikina went on to become the longest-tenured Knick on last year's squad.
His rookie-year highlights included harassing Kyrie Irving and James Harden into flat-out giving up the ball.
One of the loudest ovations in Madison Square Garden from 2017 to 2019 came when Ntilikina stripped Luka Doncic of the ball, then dived to the ground to recover it.
Over four seasons with the Knicks, Ntilikina never averaged more than seven points per game. He has shot 36% from the field for his career. He shot 19% from inside the 3-point line last season.
But the defensive-minded Ntilikina never found a consistent role under the notoriously defense-first Tom Thibodeau - a bad sign for the 23-year-old's future. In the playoffs, when the Knicks desperately needed a long, ball-hawking guard to slow down Trae Young, Ntilikina essentially got one shot - on the last possession of Game 1, where he got burned by Young for the game-winning floater. Ntilikina played just four total minutes in the series.
Despite these ups and downs, Ntilikina supporters remained a vocal bunch: Fans frequently chanted his name at MSG or gave him loud ovations when he checked in.
Now Ntilikina is a free agent, likely looking at taking a minimum deal on a contender in need of some youth or a rebuilding team searching for a hidden gem. He could also play overseas.