Frank Ntilikina is finally fulfilling his potential.
It’s just that it’s at the FIBA World Cup in China with the French National Team against the likes of Germany, Jordan and the Dominican Republic. But it’s a start, at least, as the Knicks’ 2017 lottery pick attempts to create a long-term future in New York.
Three games into the tournament, the 21-year-old Ntilikina has grabbed France’s starting point guard job from Andrew Albicy.
The 6-foot-6 guard has impressed his more renowned teammates with his defense and ball-sharing, getting credit for slowing down the Thunder’s Dennis Schröder, who is playing for Team Germany.
“He’s a very, very talented player and an excellent defender, and I see a bright future ahead for him,” said Jazz center/French teammate Rudy Gobert, according to the FIBA website.
The Knicks staff is scouting the World Cup and specifically Ntilikina, whom they shopped on Draft Night.
“He’s been very aggressive and confident,” one NBA scout in China told The Post.
Ntilikina has benefitted from Vincent Collet, his former coach in the French League in Strasbourg, helming the national team.
“I think he’s physically stronger,” Collet said. “He kept developing his body. His body frame is a little more explosive. And that’s something good for him because now he can sometimes attack the basket. He can be more aggressive.”
The points haven’t exactly poured in yet, but that’s not Ntilikina’s way. He is averaging 9.5 points at the World Cup, up from his NBA average of 5.9.
“Obviously he is young, but he has a huge potential,” said French teammate Evan Fournier of the Magic, according to an English translation provided by the Twitter account French Knicks Pod. “The key for him is to be aggressive at the offensive end at all times. Sometime[s] because he’s so talented, he lacks the aggressiveness. He just needs to stay on top of it.”
On Thursday, Ntilikina notched eight points, four assists, three turnovers and two steals with a team-leading plus-23 rating in 25 minutes in a 90-56 blowout win over the Dominican Republic.
Before the game, Ntlikina told reporters he’s happy he decided to play in the international event.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Ntlikina said. “You are on the biggest stage in the world and playing against the best players in the world. Dennis (Schröder) is a very talented player. So having the opportunity to go against the best players in the world is just amazing. That’s why you play every day.”
Ntilikina was MVP when he played for the 18-and-under French team that won the European championship and also was on the 16-and-under squad that took the Euro title.
“I did that (national team) when I was younger, and I know that it’s a lot different when you are a senior player,” Ntilikina said. “I’m here learning from my teammates. I don’t take this for granted.”
Ntilikina came off the bench in the first outing versus Germany before impressing enough to start the last two.
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“Against Germany he had a big task with Andrew of guarding Dennis Schröder, and he did a great job on him,” Collett said, according to a translation by French Knicks Pod. “And (against Jordan) he controlled the rhythm for us. He’s been great for us. He had two big shots to start the game and put pressure on defense, ran the team, shared the ball. That’s what we asked of him and he did good.
“Frank will be a big advantage for the team this summer because he has intangibles that you can’t teach and with his physical tools.”
Ntilikina’s role with the Knicks is up in the air. The Knicks signed former Magic point guard Elfrid Payton, a favorite of GM Scott Perry’s, on July 1. Dennis Smith Jr. has made strides this summer; assistant coach Keith Smart told The Post he’s worked for weeks on the former lottery pick’s erratic 3-point shot.
There’s also a crowd at shooting guard, where coach David Fizdale thinks Ntilikina is better suited. The Knicks face an October deadline to decide whether to execute the $6.2 million option for the fourth year of Ntilikina’s rookie contract for 2020-21. If they don’t, Ntilikina becomes an unrestricted free agent, but can still re-sign.
Before the World Cup, France’s Nicolas Batum said of Ntilikina, “He is the future of the team.’’
That remains undecided within the Knicks’ world.