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NBA Trade Rumors: Knicks, Clippers Have Had 'Exploratory Talks' Around Nerlens Noel

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJune 28, 2022

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

The New York Knicks reportedly held "exploratory discussions" about potentially trading center Nerlens Noel to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported Tuesday the Knicks may include draft picks as an incentive to keep L.A. from sending salary back in a deal, which would create extra cap space as New York aims to make an "aggressive run" at guard Jalen Brunson in free agency.

Noel was limited to 25 appearances during the 2021-22 season because of knee, back and foot injuries along with a stint in COVID-19 protocols.

The 28-year-old University of Kentucky product has never developed into a major offensive contributor, putting up 7.3 points per game across 450 career outings, but he's been a valuable defender when healthy. He ranked tied for 15th among all NBA players in FiveThirtyEight's defensive Raptor (+2.7) during the 2020-21 campaign.

He could slide in as the Clippers' backup center behind Ivica Zubac if Isaiah Hartenstein departs in free agency.

Meanwhile, the Knicks have spent years trying to fill their void at point guard. Former MVP Derrick Rose has provided a boost at times, but at age 34 he's not the long-term solution.

Brunson is coming off a breakout year with the Dallas Mavericks where he averaged 16.3 points, 4.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 79 games. He shot 50.2 percent from the field while knocking down 1.2 threes per contest at a 37.3 percent clip.

At 25, he should be set to enter his peak seasons, and that likely means New York would face competition for him on the free-agent market.

Convincing the New Jersey native to leave Dallas may be the toughest part, though.

Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer reported last week the Mavs are "by far the leader in the clubhouse" as they make a concerted effort to retain Brunson.

Even if Brunson remains with the Mavericks, it's still possible Noel is moved by the Knicks for financial flexibility as they look to upgrade their backcourt.

It's an important offseason for New York as it attempts to bounce back from a massively disappointing 37-45 season.

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