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Bobby Marks @BobbyMarks42
The $6.4M Joakim Noah cap hit via the stretch provision starting in 2019-20 is now the highest cap hit since the provision was implemented with the 2011 CBA. Deron Williams ($5.5M), Josh Smith ($5.4M) and Luol Deng ($5M) round out the top 4.
Noah averaged 5.0 points and 8.8 rebounds in his first season with the team before suffering a season-ending knee injury in February 2017. The NBA also suspended him for 20 games in March 2017 after he violated the league’s anti-drug policy. A month later, Noah underwent shoulder surgery.
“I’m dealing with a lot of adversity right now,” Noah said in October 2017, per the New York Daily News‘ Stefan Bondy. “It’s just where the cards fall. It’s like being a rookie all over again. I have to prove myself. And I have to prove myself everyday. It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge I put myself in.”
Noah didn’t make his 2017-18 debut until late November, and he appeared in seven games before leaving the team for “personal reasons,” according to ESPN.com’s Ian Begley and Adrian Wojnarowski.
Charania reported for Yahoo Sports that Noah had a “heated verbal exchange” with then-Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek at practice the day after the Knicks lost 123-112 to the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 23, 2018.
At that point, it seemed clear the relationship between Noah and the Knicks had been broken beyond repair, and the only question was whether the team would be able to trade him or instead have to eat a lot of money to release him.
Although the Knicks will be paying Noah well beyond his departure from the team, stretching his contract freed up enough salary-cap space for the team to be a major player in the 2019 free-agency sweepstakes.
Knicks Film School @KnickFilmSchool
By stretching Noah, the Knicks can essentially have max space in 2019 for a 7-9 year free agent like Kyrie Irving.
To have enough cap space for a 10+ year free agent, like Kevin Durant, they still need to clear ~$7MM in space https://t.co/m8fn1GXFmb
In his prime years with the Chicago Bulls, Noah was never a strong scorer and relied largely on his defense to earn two All-Star appearances and a first-team All-NBA selection in 2013-14.
Now he can no longer defend at a high level and is still a poor scorer. According to NBA.com, the Knicks allowed three more points per 100 possessions when he was on the court in 2016-17. Opponents also shot 61.3 percent inside six feet when matched up against Noah.
And that was before he had surgery on his knee.
Perhaps the 33-year-old will thrive now he’s no longer a member of the Knicks, a franchise that hasn’t exactly been a pillar of stability in recent seasons. He may also be carrying a chip on his shoulder based on the circumstances of his departure from New York.
Providing further motivation, this could be Noah’s last shot at prolonging his NBA career.
Roy Hibbert‘s rapid decline is a testament to how quickly teams can sour on aging centers. Hibbert was an All-Star and All-Defensive second-team player in 2014. Four years later, he retired after failing to sign with a team in 2017-18.
With Marc Gasol locked in as the starting center, the Grizzlies don’t need Noah to occupy a big role in their rotation. His arrival also allows for Jaren Jackson Jr. to spend more time at power forward, which is likely his best position.
Joining a playoff contender could also ease any fears about whether Noah will be disruptive behind the scenes like he was in New York.
Memphis had plenty of drama last year centered around Gasol and former head coach David Fizdale. Otherwise, the franchise has largely been devoid of any on-court chemistry issues. The stability and experience in the Grizzlies’ locker room is a much better fit for Noah than the Knicks were.
Considering his value has dropped so significantly, there isn’t a ton of risk for the Grizzlies in signing Noah. They didn’t fall into the trap of giving up any assets for him and waited until he hit the open market as a free agent.
If his days as a meaningful contributor are truly over, then moving on from Noah shouldn’t be too difficult.