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Knicks’ young point guards entering critical time with Tom Thibodeau

Knicks new head coach Tom Thibodeau gained a reputation in Chicago as a point guard whisperer. Beyond his stellar work with Derrick Rose, Thibodeau maximized the talents of D.J. Augustin, Nate Robinson, John Lucas III and C.J. Watson as Bulls.

Introducing Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. — the eighth and ninth picks of the 2017 draft. Thibodeau doesn’t speak French, but he has been tasked with squeezing out Ntilikina’s potential and turning around Smith’s shockingly wayward career.

Thibodeau admitted the offseason is critical for both lottery picks, as the Knicks figure out their annual unknown point guard situation.

Ntilikina and Smith both are in the final years of their rookie contracts and haven’t lit the league on fire yet. They have vastly different styles. Ntilikina is a playmaker and defender, while Smith is a scorer and penetrator. Smith has even changed his jersey number to No. 4 — which he wore at North Carolina State.

Dennis Smith Jr.; Tom Thibodeau; Frank Ntilikina
Dennis Smith Jr.; Tom Thibodeau; Frank NtilikinaGetty Images (3)

“We’re three days in, so I’m getting to know both guys,’’ Thibodeau said after the third day of voluntary group practices that is part of the NBA’s in-market OTAs for the “Delete 8.’’

“I like what they’ve done so far. They got to continue to work. There’s often times ups and downs for young players. There’s a learning curve they have to go through. Some experiences will be better than others.

“They both have had some good moments in the league. You want to build a consistency. And how do you get there? You have to do it through your work. You have to learn from the experiences. And you have to be disciplined. And so, hopefully we can get there this is a very important offseason for both players.”

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