The New York Knicks-Joakim Noah contract is turning into the equivalent of highway robbery.
Phil Jackson has made his fair share of moves since becoming the New York Knicks’ President of Basketball Operations.
He drafted a potential franchise superstar in Kristaps Porzingis. He shedded enough cap space to give the team flexibility going forward. Jackson was even able to add depth and skill to a depleted bench.
However, there is one deal though that the “Zen Master” appears to have missed on. The Joakim Noah contract is turning into the equivalent of highway robbery.
The Knicks included their starting center, Robin Lopez, in an offseason trade that brought Derrick Rose to the Big Apple. That move left a void at the center position.
They figured who better to replace Lopez than a former Defensive Player of the Year award winner and Rose teammate, Joakim Noah. New York signed the nine-year veteran to a four-year, $72 million contract.
The problem is that Noah is a shell of the player who was the league’s best defender back in the 2013-14 season. Injuries and father time have contributed to the decline of the former first-round draft pick. A shoulder injury limited his playing time last year. Noah went on to miss a total of 53 games, including the last 43 in a row.
Injuries have already taken a toll this season. The two-time all-star missed a couple games in the preseason due to a hamstring injury. He has since missed two games in the regular season because of the flu.
Missing games due to an injury worsens the team’s chemistry. It also limits a player’s ability to learn a system and get enough repetitions to be comfortable in the flow of the game. The issue is that injuries may not be all that is wrong with Noah. The reality is that the 31 year-old just may not have what it takes anymore.
Noah is playing in only 22.5 minutes per game. That may have something to do with coming back from injury, but the majority of those minutes are being logged in the first half of games. When the game is winding down and it approaches crunch time, head coach Jeff Hornacek seems comfortable going with a small lineup or pairing one of his younger, more athletic, big men with the starters.
So far this season, Noah is averaging 4.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.9 blocks, and 1.1 turnovers per game. He is also knocking down only 28.6 percent of his foul shots. The points, blocks, and free throw percentage are all career lows.
The numbers look even worse when you compare Noah’s to the two guys backing him up.
Willy Hernangomez is averaging 5.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.7 assists, and 0.4 blocks in only 13.8 minutes per game. He is also shooting 60 percent from the floor and 58.3 percent from the foul line. Kyle O’Quinn is averaging 4.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.9 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 12.5 minutes per game. He has been the most consistent of the three players from the foul line. O’Quinn has converted on 75 percent of his foul shots.
The main reason that Noah’s numbers look so bad is because of the disparity in salary the three players are receiving. Hernangomez and O’Quinn are earning $1.38 million and $3.9 million this season, respectively. Noah, on the other hand, is making $17 million dollars in just this season alone. That figure will go up in each of the next three seasons.
The answer to this dilemma is not an easy one for the Knicks. Noah’s contract is fully guaranteed so cutting him is out of the question. The only way would be if the new collective bargaining agreement included an amnesty clause. New York could try and finesse a trade partner. But with that contract, the phone probably will not be ringing off of the hook.
The Knicks may have to end up going with the younger players and have Noah come off of bench if they cannot find a trade partner. No matter what happens, it appears that the Joakim Noah contract is becoming equivalent to highway robbery.