Is Signing Joakim Noah a Good Move for the Knicks?
After nine years of being the fire and intensity behind one of the leagues' best defense in Chicago, Joakim Noah is headed home.
The New York native is all set to sign a reported four-year, $72 million contract with the New York Knicks. The 31-year-old center will be joining Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, and long-time teammate Derrick Rose as the Knicks are revamping their roster into that of a playoff contender. They are focused on returning to the playoffs after a three-season absence, which -- for New York fans -- seems like an eternity.
In Noah, Phil Jackson and new head coach Jeff Hornacek are getting one of the most energetic and passionate players in the association. He brings a love for the game that is contagious. He also carries a reputation as one of the league's hardest working defenders. Noah also comes with an extensive medical history.
Before we get into how and if the former Florida Gator is a good fit for the Knicks, let's see what and who they are giving $18 million a year.
Noah's All-Star Career
During his time with Chicago, Noah transformed himself from a nice but unspectacular role player in his first two seasons into the 2013-14 Defensive Player of the Year. That year, he was at the peak of his game as he averaged 12.6 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. Noah led the NBA in defensive rating (95.8) and defensive win shares (6.6). He also earned his second consecutive All-Star appearance and was named to the All-NBA First team.
He had arguably become one of the top centers in the NBA, able to defend bigs and guards alike. Even with his unorthodox shooting stroke, he managed to become a solid contributor on the offensive end thanks in large part to his superior passing ability.
Despite his versatility and elite all-around play since becoming the unquestioned starter in Chicago in 2009, the last two seasons have been a much different story.
|2009-10 to 2013-14||322||33.2||11.5||49.4||74.3||10.8||1.6||112||98|
|2014-15 to 2015-16||96||28.0||6.3||43.0||58.0||9.4||1.1||106||102|
As you can see, his numbers took a dive across the board. His shooting was way down, especially last season. For the first time in his career, the big man shot less than 40 percent from the floor and 50 percent from the charity stripe. We can partially blame the struggles on a new reserve role for Noah, the first time he was primarily used as a bench player since his rookie season. But the main contributor to his poor play last and year, and in 2014-15, is injuries.
When you play with as much abandon and dive into the floor as much as Noah does, you are bound to get hurt. Throughout his career, he has missed a substantial amount of time, only starting 80 games one time (2013-14) in nine years. The 6'11" center has averaged 63.5 games per season. In fact, in the last five years he has missed more than 100 games with a variety of ailments.
In 2011-12, he missed 18 games with a hand injury. The following season it was his ankle costing him 16 games. It all culminated last season when Noah only played 29 games due to a shoulder injury that required surgery in late January.
Big Man in the Big Apple
Last season, the Knicks signed Robin Lopez to be the man in the middle. Despite some early-season struggles, Lopez did a solid job at the five last season. He averaged 10.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in only 27.1 minutes per game. He also posted respectable shooting numbers, a 57.4 true shooting percentage. However, to acquire Rose from the Bulls, Lopez was sent packing leaving an opening down low. Enter Noah.
There are quite a few similarities in their games. They both are exceptional offensive rebounders. Lopez and Noah have a career offensive rebounding percentage of 12.5 and 12.9%, respectively, ranking them in the top five of all active NBA players. Both are also above-average rim protectors, averaging over 1.7 blocks per 36 minutes throughout their careers.
Their offensive games differ, with Lopez providing a more shooting range while Noah is possibly the best passing big man in the Association. That is why Noah may be the ideal fit for the Knicks at center.
Since Jackson took over the role of President of the Knicks, he has been trying to implement the triangle offense. With the hiring of Hornacek, Jackson has conceded a bit as the Knicks are expected to be running a faster tempo offense, but with elements of the triangle still intact. While it is not clear what half-court sets the Knicks will run, Noah will be able to help the offense when the game slows down or in transition.
An exceptional athlete, Noah runs the floor well for a big man. He has enough speed to beat his other centers down the floor and getting open on the fast break. His ball handling ability also makes him a great fit for the triangle as he excels at passing out of the high post. He has good vision and can find a cutting guard or an open wing player on the perimeter.
Despite his shot blocking ability, Porzingis has plenty of weaknesses on the defensive end. Pairing him with an above average and versatile defender like Noah, the sophomore will have a trustworthy partner in the frontcourt who can pick up more of the defensive slack than Lopez did last year. Last year, Lopez ranked 48th in Defensive Real Plus-Minus, and Noah ranked 21st among centers.
The Knicks' entire defense takes a step up with a legit defensive stopper in the middle. They are bound to improve on their ranking 18th in defensive rating last season with Noah on board. The question, though, will always come back to health.
The Knicks had an opening at center, and Noah is an ideal fit. His familiarity with Rose and versatility on both ends of the floor make the signing a win for the Knicks. However, giving the 31-year-old center a four-year deal may be a bit ambitious. Noah's inability to stay healthy over the last few years has taken a toll on his game. We already know, in all likelihood, he is not capable of playing 80-plus games per year. How many games is going to be able to play, and at what level, when he is 35?
With the rising salary cap, Noah at $18 million per year may seem like an expensive bet now, but if the former Bull can be anything close to what what we saw out of him two years ago, the Knicks will have made the right move.