The New York Knicks signed Joakim Noah to, very possibly, the least valuable contract of all time in the summer of 2016, giving him a four-year contract worth over $72.5 million.
Noah, simply put, isn’t good at basketball anymore. He’s too slow for the modern game, can’t spread the floor at all, isn’t athletic (relative to his peers) or a vertical threat, and can’t even really defend and rebound like he used to. To be fair, from what the Knicks have seen from Noah in the last two years, he still rebounds and defends the post adequately enough; however, he used to be among the best in the league at each of those things.
However, Noah is bad at all the other things now and has become a distraction for the Knicks, getting suspended for the use of performance-enhancing drugs and being exiled from the team within the last year and a half. He played in parts of seven games last year.
The Knicks are now entering year three of the four-year commitment to Noah and don’t intend to use him anymore. They have a mostly new group in charge (I still can’t believe they didn’t completely clean house after Phil Jackson) and have realized they need to get out of this contract somehow.
Of course, the contract was back-loaded, so the two highest salaries and cap hits of the contract are this year and next year. That makes an already difficult trade nearly impossible. Noah will make over $18.5 million this year, and over $19 million in 2019-20.
I have said that I think the Knicks should just eat the contract for at least one more year. If they wait until next offseason, I think they could be in a position to be good after next summer, and a team on the decline would take Joakim Noah’s expiring contract with either a pick towards the back half of the first round or a couple of second-round picks attached to it.
The Knicks seem intent on getting this resolved ASAP, however. They are looking for trade partners right now in order to be rid of him by the start of the upcoming season.
The Knicks have basically decided that if nobody will take him on, they will waive Noah and use the stretch provision to lessen his $19.3M cap hit in 2019-20. The stretch provision would allow them to pay Noah’s salary in smaller installments over three years, rather than paying it all out in one year. Therefore, they would be on the books for his full salary in 2018-19, but would have a $6.4 million cap hit in each of the following three seasons.
$6.4 million is no joke to be paying out a guy who isn’t on your team. The Knicks could pay a couple of good bench veterans with that money if they decide to just eat Noah’s contract for the next two years and be rid of it after that.
I am really not in favor of using the stretch provision. I’m not sure how much it would really free them up to make other moves to genuinely contend. I could very well be wrong and be misunderstanding several elements of this situation, but I feel like stretching Noah’s deal would be a mistake.
If there is no way to move Noah’s contract, then they won’t be able to form their own big three in the 2019 offseason. I don’t think they’d be able to give out another max contract or sign another big-time guy if they’d have over $6 million committed to Noah without getting very creative in getting rid of Tim Hardaway Jr., which they might have to do anyway.
They will have room to get at least one max contract player next year. I think it is most likely to be Kyrie Irving. If they can get rid of Noah, then they’d be close to having the room for another, like Jimmy Butler. Having Noah on the books, though, gets rid of all chances of that, but having his salary reduced to $6.4 million and stretched over three years doesn’t make it much more doable, in my eyes, and makes it harder to improve a potential big three, even if they did make it work.
I think, if it were up to me, I’d probably just eat Noah’s contract for the remainder of its duration if nobody will trade with the Knicks after this season. They’d only be able to get one max contract next offseason, but they could make that work, I think. They would have to deal with not being a tippy-top-tier team for a year, but with Noah’s money off the books a year later, they’d be closer to being able to fit a max player, and another year closer to the end of Hardaway’s contract, making him more tradable, if they decide to go that route to clear salary.
The bottom line is that it appears Joakim Noah will certainly not appear in a Knicks uniform again.