Earlier this month, the Dallas Mavericks made a strategic acquisition, signing defensive-minded guard Frank Ntilikina to a two-year contract.
According to Ian Begley of SNY, Ntilikina’s two-year deal in Dallas is fully guaranteed in the first year, but non-guaranteed in the second. However, that second season does become fully guaranteed if he’s on the Mavericks roster past July 4 of next year.
An extremely team-friendly minimum contract, Ntilikina’s has the opportunity to make up to $3.8 million in total. In terms of high-value additions, this could end up being the best move that the Mavericks made all off-season.
While they acquired two shooters in Reggie Bullock and Sterling Brown during free agency, Ntilikina fits a different need, which is defense.
The Fit In Dallas
Ntilikina is a low-risk move for the Mavericks. For starters, he just turned 23 years old and could thrive with a fresh start. Additionally, he’s got clear talent after being selected No. 8 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Dallas having the opportunity to sign a former lottery pick to a minimum deal was something that couldn’t be passed up.
With Ntilikina being a guy known for his defense, he also fills a huge need for the Mavericks. Over the past few seasons, they’ve been excellent offensively but have struggled on defense. Last season, Dallas was eighth in offensive rating (114.6), but were in the bottom ten in terms of defensive efficiency (21st). Now that they’ve acquired the young guard, he should make an immediate impact on that end of the floor.
Ntilikina is only 6-foot-4, but has a wingspan of 7-foot-1. This is one of the primary reasons he’s able to be so disruptive on the perimeter. Last season with the New York Knicks, he averaged 2.0 steals per 36 minutes, using that length to his advantage.
A Low-Risk Move
All things considered, there’s really no downside to this acquisition for the Mavericks. When signing a player to a minimum deal, especially one that’s not fully guaranteed, there is usually only upside.
If Ntilikina is able to increase their defensive productivity at all, he’ll be worth the signing.
One of the youngest players in Dallas, Ntilikina also has future upside. Not only does he fit the roster as a player who can help now, but he also has tremendous potential as a prospect.
Every season, there’s a handful of players that get their careers back on track by joining a new team and situation. On a rising team like the Mavericks who need defense, he could look like a completely different player in his new role.
Worst case scenario, Ntilikina doesn’t work out and the Mavericks waive him before his guarantee date next summer. However, the upside and potential to help now and in the future is completely worth that risk.
Ntilikina had the opportunity to play with France in the Tokyo Olympics earlier this summer. While he didn’t get all that much playing time, it was still great exposure for the young guard. Against some of the best players in the world, he once again showed the ability to make a defensive impact.