AUG. 5: Ntilikina’s deal with the Hornets is official, per team release (Twitter link).
Wojnarowski says that Ntilikina’s deal will be partially guaranteed, while Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link) hears that it will be non-guaranteed — we’ll have to wait for more clarity on the exact details, but it’s a safe bet it’ll be worth the veteran’s minimum.
Ntilikina, who turned 25 last week, was selected eighth overall in the 2017 draft by the Knicks. He spent his first four NBA seasons in New York before joining the Mavericks for the last two years.
Ntilikina has never developed into much of an offensive threat at the NBA level, averaging a modest 4.8 points and 2.2 assists per game in 316 career contests (17.1 MPG), with a shooting line of .371/.323/.760. However, he’s considered a strong perimeter defender.
While Ntilikina’s partially guaranteed contract won’t necessarily assure him of a regular season roster spot in Charlotte, he has the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of another former Knicks guard who was drafted in the 2017 lottery – Dennis Smith Jr. earned regular playing time in the Hornets’ rotation last season due to his strong defensive play. He parlayed that showing into a guaranteed contract with Brooklyn this offseason.
Charlotte only has 12 players on fully guaranteed contracts – not counting restricted free agent P.J. Washington – and doesn’t have much point guard depth behind starter LaMelo Ball, so Ntilikina should have an inside track on a 15-man roster spot as long as he performs well in training camp. It’s also worth noting that two-way player Theo Maledon is still a restricted free agent, so his potential return could affect Ntilikina’s role in Charlotte.
If Ntilikina doesn’t claim a spot on the Hornets’ 15-man roster, it will be interesting to see whether the Frenchman catches on with another team or considers a move back to Europe. As Sportando relays, there had been rumors that French club ASVEL Basket made an offer to Ntilikina.