Nerlens Noel, Knicks Agree to 1-Year, $5 Million Contract

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2020

Oklahoma City Thunder's Nerlens Noel (9) dunks against Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 112-107. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

The New York Knicks and center Nerlens Noel reached an agreement Saturday on a one-year, $5 million contract.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the deal's details. . 

Noel's career has been hampered by the sky-high expectations that come with being the sixth overall pick in the NBA draft, which he was in 2013. In a vacuum, however, he's been a high-impact defender whose offensive efficiency has improved over the years.

The 26-year-old University of Kentucky product averaged 7.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in just 18.5 minutes per game across 61 appearances for the Oklahoma City Thunder during the 2019-20 season. He shot a career-best 68.4 percent from the field.

He ranks 41st among all NBA players in defensive win shares (14.6) since his rookie campaign in 2014-15, per Basketball Reference.

Noel's game hasn't morphed to meet the growing demand for stretch 4s as his offensive contributions are mostly restricted to the paint. That said, he's emerged as an ideal small-ball big man and his across-the-board production drew rave reviews from OKC's key figures.

"I can give a long list, but he's an amazing big man because he's a great defender, great shot blocker," forward Danilo Gallinari told Erik Horne of The Athletic in February. "He's not a guy who (needs) the ball in his hands. He sets screens, rolls to the basket, very unselfish."

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Head coach Billy Donovan added: "When that center spot is here ... it takes us to another level."

The way the sport has moved toward a fast-paced, three-point-heavy style of play has threatened old-school post players, but Noel has made the most of his minutes in recent years.

Now he'll look to carve out a similar niche in New York to build off his strong season in Oklahoma City.

Noel should slide in as backup center after joining the Knicks.