Following a disastrous 2016-17 season, New York Knicks center Joakim Noah still has what it takes to be the anchor of his team.
Joakim Noah has become a popular punching bag for Knicks fans. Coming off an injury-laden season and a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, no one is looking forward to a fresh start more than Noah. A look into his on-court production shows there is still a silver lining despite his $72 million albatross of a contract.
In one his first interviews as a Knick, Joakim Noah was quoted as saying he wanted to be an “animal” for New York City. As a fan wanting to believe the hype, I was sold. Forget the injuries, forget the slow as molasses movement on the court, Noah was going to change the culture of the Knicks.
After 46 games played during the 2016-17 season, Noah posted near career lows in points per game, assists, and free throw percentage. Noah’s lack of on-court production is further exacerbated by a contract that is untradeable. To add insult to injury, Noah tested positive for a banned substance towards the end of the last season and will miss the first 12 games of this season.
Despite the logjam at the center position and his mediocre play, Noah can still have an essential role on this team. Courtesy of NBA.com, Noah’s stats in key areas can lead to positive production on the offense and defense.
Screen Assists Per Game
Since his days in Chicago, Noah has been adept as screening for shooters to get open. If Jeff Hornacek is going to run a more up-tempo offense, the bigs in the lineup will have to screen and roll with efficiency. Last season Noah finished in the top ten in screen assists per game.
When healthy, Knicks fan will remember that Noah had a positive impact when he started at the top of the key and had at least some of the offense run through him. Noah makes good decisions with the ball and is an above average passer for his size.
Contested Two Point Shots
Although the Knicks had a buzz-worthy off-season, you will not hear any pundits calling the orange and blue world beaters in the area of defense anytime soon. This is why a healthy Noah is very important.
Per NBA.com Last season, Noah contested 6.7 two points shots per game. This was second on the team only to Kristaps Porzingis (11.4). While Porzingis will continue to be the primary rim protector, he will need help. Additionally, new faces like Enes Kanter, Michael Beasley, Doug McDermott, and Tim Hardaway Jr. will likely not produce much in this area. Thus, Noah’s health and ability to play defense become paramount.
Second Chance Points
Last year, the Knicks were in the top 10 in offensive rebounding. Noah, when healthy, definitely played his part. Ranking just behind Carmelo Anthony (2.8) and Willy Hernangomez (2.2), Noah averaged 2.1 second-chance points per game.
Hustle and heart are Noah’s calling cards, and being around the rim on both the offensive and defensive ends are vital towards giving the Knicks any chance at being competitive this year.
Furthermore, this newly constructed Knicks squad may not be very efficient on offense, thus having Noah patrolling the paint is an absolute must for a Knicks team that wants to play at a faster pace.
Bottom line, Joakim Noah has a major opportunity to re-write his Knicks story. If pre-season is an indicator, the Knicks might quite possibly be the worst defensive team in the league. Noah can help the team with his activity, communication, and hustle. When his suspension is completed, Noah will get his opportunity. The rest is up to him.