The Knicks' Frank Ntilikina drives past the Nets' D'Angelo Russell...

The Knicks' Frank Ntilikina drives past the Nets' D'Angelo Russell during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden on Monday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Throughout the preseason, like much of his rookie season, Frank Ntilikina was just looking for an opportunity. He didn’t care about what position David Fizdale would put him, Ntilikina was just hopeful of a chance to play somewhere.

So when he started the season playing small forward, he accepted the role, happy to start. But in the Knicks lineup shuffle after five games, Ntilikina finally got the chance to start at point guard — 88 games into his career — and has quickly made the most of the opportunity.

HIs first assignment was against Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors and he held his own — the Knicks actually seeing the game turn when he was on the bench early in the fourth quarter, a slight lead deteriorating into a one-sided defeat. After not breaking double-figures in scoring in the first five games, with the ball in his hands he scored 17 points against Golden State, matching his career high, and then followed it up with 16 points against the Nets.

“For me, I don’t look at it as different,” Fizdale said. “I look at it as his evolution. Everybody else saw him a lot before I got here. I’m looking at him with fresh eyes that from the time I’ve gotten him to now, I’m just looking at his evolution. I’m not concerned with difference as much. The biggest part for me was him finding, who are you going to be? What’s your identity as a player in this league? So far, so good.”

For Ntilikina to be worthy of the No. 8 overall pick where the Knicks selected him last summer — ahead of the likes of Donovan Mitchell and Dennis Smith Jr., comparisons that he likely will be chasing his entire career — he has relied on a defensive prowess advanced for a player so young. He entered the NBA Draft at just 18 years old and turned 20 just before the start of camp this summer.

But playing point guard makes him an unusual prospect — a 6-6 ball handler with a 7-1 wingspan. He played the position rarely in Europe, coming off the bench for a team with experienced point guards ahead of him. But in the 2016 FIBA Europe tournament, Ntilikina scored 31 points in the championship game, earning the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player honors. That helped open eyes for the NBA scouts and he was the last first-round pick of Phil Jackson before Jackson was fired from his role as Knicks president.

While Kristaps Porzingis is the prize of Jackson’s tenure, Ntilikina can help change the perception of what was a disastrous period on the court for the franchise if he can lead the team into the future.

Ntilikina is often the last player on the practice floor, working with assistant coach Ross McMains. Entering Wednesday’s game against Indiana, Ntilikina has played more minutes per game than anyone on the Knicks except for Tim Hardaway Jr., averaging 29.6 minutes per game. After shooting 4-for-14 from three-point range in the first four games, he has converted 8-of-15 since then.

“I set some little milestones here and there for him,” Fizdale said. “You know, try to get up this many threes a game, make sure our pace is going, absolutely have a first-team defensive mindset and then let the rest fall into place. He knows he has the greenlight to shoot whatever shots he wants to shoot and I just trust his decision making. We’ll see how that falls into place.”