After trading for Derrick Rose, the New York Knicks are on the verge of adding another important player in Joakim Noah. However, plugging Noah into the gaping hole in the middle left by dealing Robin Lopez is somewhat of a mixed blessing.
With apologies to Marc Gasol, Noah is simply the best-passing big man in the league. This is a virtue that’s importance cannot be understated given the requirements of the triangle. With Noah, the offense will be smoother, quicker to generate good shots, more precise and much more flexible since he’s comfortable in both the high and low post.
He has sufficient back-to-the-basket moves to take advantage of any defensive mistakes made by his defender. Plus, Noah’s one-and-a-half-handed jumper and free throw shooting can be surprisingly accurate when he’s playing with confidence.
At age 31, Noah is slightly past his peak, yet his body is still relatively fresh because of the many games he’s missed over the course of his career. That means he’s still quick-and-slick enough to be a sneakily effective offensive rebounder.
Noah can also run the floor quite well for a big. This means he will often beat his man down court, thereby presenting himself as a viable trailer option on fast-breaks and in early-offense situations.
But it’s on defense where Noah shines. While he can be bullied in the pivot by stronger players, he more than makes up for his lack of bulk — 6-11’, 235 pounds — by being smart, tough, impossible to intimidate, instinctive and fully committed.
Still another important factor is Noah’s being a terrific and supportive teammate.
His health is an obvious issue. Noah has had problems with his feet, legs and most recently with his shoulders. Given his body-banging, maximum-energy game plan, it’s not far-fetched to believe that he’s an injury waiting to happen.
But why should such a well-conditioned, world-class athlete suffer so many injuries?
There are several possible reasons.
Bad workout programs.
Lack of strength/balance in certain body parts.
An improper gait.
Too much partying and not enough sleep.
All of the above are fixable. And it should be assumed that Phil Jackson has done his due diligence in regards to Noah’s health.
However, Noah’s getting over-powered by bigger, stronger opponents is not so easily remedied. This leads to chronic foul trouble, late-game fatigue and a susceptibility to more injuries.
That’s why his playing time has to be carefully monitored. Which means that the Knicks absolutely must sign a capable backup center. Re-signing Kevin Seraphin would be ideal.
Another drawback in Noah’s game is his unsuitability to succeed in high screen/roll situations. He simply lacks the sheer mass to routinely set body-blasting screens. The antidote here is timing and positioning.
Even so, while the triangle can implement high S/Rs (which is precisely how the Lakers beat Indiana in the 2000 championship series), this alignment is not critical to its success.
Despite the several contravening factors, Joakim Noah is still a plus-plus addition to the Knicks. The reported four years on the contract is a bit lengthy, but he can transition into a backup/mentor role in the latter stages of this deal.
GRADE = A-