Frank Ntilikina will become an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday evening after the Knicks chose not to extend the one-time lottery selection’s qualifying offer.

The New York Knicks’ longest-tenured player, Frank Ntilikina, is now an unrestricted free agent.

Marc Berman of the New York Post reports that the Knicks chose not to extend the qualifying offer to what could have been the restricted free agent Ntilikina, 23, who’s in Tokyo, Japan, right now playing for Team France in the Summer Olympics.

Ntilikina, a 6-foot-4 guard/wing, was selected by the Knicks back in the 2017 draft as the eighth overall pick, one ahead of future (and now former) Knick Dennis Smith Jr. The Belgian-born French guard spent four rocky seasons with the club, playing sparingly in what could have been his final season in New York in 2020–21. As the former first-round selection’s rookie deal expires, Ntilikina will become an unrestricted free agent with the ability to sign with any club.

Despite the hire of defensive-minded Tom Thibodeau, the reigning Coach of the Year chose not to play Ntilikina much over the course of the shortened, 72-game 2020–21 NBA season, which saw the Knicks reach the playoffs for the first time in eight years. Veteran free-agent signings in Elfrid Payton and Alec Burks, along with mid-season acquisition Derrick Rose, played ahead of Ntilikina. All four of those Knicks guards will be free agents this summer, with the impetus on team president Leon Rose and general manager Scott Perry to negotiate starting on August 2nd for New York’s next point guard.

Ntilikina averaged 5.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game in his four-year Knicks tenure, appearing in 211 contests.

Last Thursday saw the Knicks head into the 2021 NBA Draft armed with four picks. They ended up making all four selections—but after trading out or down three times during the night. New York left with Houston’s Quentin Grimes, FC Barcelona’s Rokas Jokubaitis, West Virginia’s Miles McBride—all guards—and Texas big man Jericho Sims. The arrival of multiple guards on the roster (Jokubaitis is expected to play in Barcelona at least this upcoming season, although he’ll participate on New York’s Summer League team in Las Vegas) leaves a Ntilikina return in 2021–22 as very unlikely for the moment.

Frank Ntilikina’s potential exit from the Knicks leaves many asking what could have been, as the Frenchman saw multiple chances to claim the starting point-guard spot stunted due to benchings, performance, regime changes, injuries. The longest-tenured Knicks, for now, are Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson (who had his team option picked up yesterday), both 2018 draft selections.


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