Knicks News: Nerlens Noel Re-Signs on 3-Year, $32M Contract in FA

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2021

New York Knicks' Nerlens Noel reacts after he lost control of the ball in the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers during an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden, Sunday, March 21, 2021, in New York. (Elsa/Pool Photo via AP)
Elsa/Associated Press

Nerlens Noel helped lead the New York Knicks to the playoffs after signing a one-year deal for the 2020-21 season, and he is coming back in an effort to do it again.

The 27-year-old and the Knicks agreed to a three-year, $32 million contract on Monday, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Noel bet on himself by signing a one-year, $5 million contract with the Knicks prior to the 2020-21 campaign, and he carved out an important role in the frontcourt for the defensive-oriented team that reached the playoffs for the first time since 2012-13.

He averaged 5.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 61.4 percent from the field.

It was the University of Kentucky product's ability to protect the rim that stood out far more than his scoring, as opponents shot a head-turning 10.7 percent worse inside of six feet of the basket and 3.5 percent worse overall than their normal averages when he was guarding them during the regular season, per NBA.com.

His presence was a major reason the Knicks finished fourth in the league in defensive rating, behind only the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz.

Noel proved capable of switching onto smaller opponents, handling the physicality of bigger ones down low and quickly adapting to head coach Tom Thibodeau's system, and he clearly showed enough to convince the team to bring him back on another contract.

While the offense will likely never be what some expected when he entered the league as the No. 6 overall pick of the 2013 NBA draft, his value on the defensive side plus the fact that he is still relatively young made him one of the better under-the-radar free agents heading into the offseason.

New York made sure to keep him as it looks to build a long-term winner under Thibodeau.