Dennis Smith Jr. was taken by the Dallas Mavericks with the 9th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, a pick after the New York Knicks selected Frank Ntilikina. Smith is averaging 14.8 points, 4.9 assists and 3.8 rebounds for a bad Mavericks team while Ntilikina has been quietly contributing 5 assists a night to the Knicks. (He’s been Lonzo Ball without the scoring or rebounding or TMZ-friendly family.) It makes sense to think that the Knicks got the lesser player as LeBron James pointed out over the weekend.
These comments from James have galvanized the Knicks around their rookie. Kristaps Porzingis said “we’re happy with him” and Enes Kanter has been a vocal supporter of Ntilikina. The New York Post characterized the Knicks as “pissed.”
What perfect timing as LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers visit New York on Monday night. Will things be chippy? Will the Madison Square Garden crowd boo? Will Ntilikina score in double-figures for the second time in his career? Or will the 7-5 Knicks beat the Cavaliers and remain ahead of them in the standings? Eastern Conference basketball has never been so intense.