A decrease in overall minutes may be the best possible solution for Joakim Noah and the New York Knicks.
As the season has gone on in New York, a lot of the discussion surrounding the Knicks has focused on the chemistry, or perceived “fit” of this roster. While, overall, it’s hard to argue that the Knicks haven’t gotten better as the season has gone on, one of the biggest issues with this team has certainly been the rotation of key players.
Specifically at the center position, the Knicks are caught in a bit of a log jam.
Entering the season, it was assumed that the Knicks would utilize Joakim Noah as their starting center, especially considering the massive four-year, $72.6 million contract the Knicks gave him this offseason. However, through his first 15 games as a Knick, Noah has been somewhat disappointing.
Joakim has averaged just 4.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game this season in 15 starts. Additionally, his once All-NBA defense has all but dissipated, leaving a lot of evidence that Noah is a below average center defensively at this point in his career.
Thus, when Noah went down with an ankle injury, sidelining him for two games, it was not considered a particularly devastating blow to the Knicks.
With Noah out, Kyle O’Quinn filled in at starting center over the two game stretch, showcasing that he is perfectly capable of handling some increased minutes. After scoring just two points in his first contest starting at the center position, O’Quinn exploded for 20 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night. However, even in his two-point performance, he added eight rebounds, nearly matching Noah’s per game season averages in multiple stat categories.
During his tenure with the Knicks, O’ Quinn has shown himself to be a reliable defender and a relentless hustler on the glass. Additionally, he has a surprisingly diverse offensive game that allows him to offer limited scoring in both the low post and from the elbow.
Perhaps it’s time Jeff Hornacek considered giving him a bit more playing time.
Furthermore, both Willy Hernangomez and Marshall Plumlee, the two youngest members of the Knicks’ platoon of big men, provided solid minutes off the bench in Noah’s absence. Hernangomez has shown the ability to score and rebound around the basket, while Plumlee has demonstrated strong defensive instincts off the bench. Certainly, the Knicks could use help defensively this season, and Plumlee can probably provide that at an equal — if not better — level than Noah at this point in his career.
However, there are certainly some benefits to having Noah on the floor, despite the deficiencies in his game at his current age. He remains one of the top passing big men in the entire league and has shown he can be especially effective when used in the pick and roll with Derrick Rose. Additionally, in terms of recognizing opposing offensive strategies, there are few players in the league with Noah’s mind.
That makes him a nearly invaluable mentor to the young Knicks on the roster, especially Kristaps Porzingis.
Despite his advantages in the locker room, Joakim Noah has yet to demonstrate the ability to contribute as a starting center for the Knicks this season. Certainly, his minutes have been limited, but there’s reason to believe that the Knicks could benefit from a further reduction of Joakim’s time on the court.
With Kyle O’Quinn demonstrating that he’s more than capable of duplicating Noah’s production, and Hernangomez and Plumlee offering the chance to develop younger players, there simply doesn’t seem to be room in the Knicks rotation for Joakim. Unless his play drastically changes, we should see more time with Noah on the bench.