Nets Add 25-Year-Old Big Man to Bolster Defense, Frontcourt Depth

Noah Vonleh

Getty Noah Vonleh, whom the Nets signed Monday, scans the court in the Timberwolves' game against the 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on October 30, 2019.

The Brooklyn Nets are padding their depth with the signing of forward/center Noah Vonleh, the team announced Monday.

The 25-year-old Vonleh, who is listed at 6-foot-10, was the No. 9 overall pick in 2014. He was most recently with the Chicago Bulls, who waived him in training camp after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Vonleh spent time last season with both the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets. He averaged 3.7 points and 3.4 rebounds in 10.5 minutes per game. Before that, he had a successful campaign playing for the New York Knicks in 2018-19, when he averaged 8.4 points and 7.8 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game.

Noah Vonleh Will Be Available vs. Detroit Pistons

Because he tested positive for COVID-19 in December, Vonleh will be available to play Tuesday when the Nets head to Detroit to face the Pistons.

As NBA insider Tom Haberstroh noted on Twitter, “COVID-recovered free agents are in high demand because) NBA allows them to play in 2 days vs. normal 6 days.”

ESPN NBA front office insider Bobby Marks reported the Vonleh signing comes with a $1.08 million cap hit, and that the Nets will have until Febuary 24 to make a decision on him, in addition to Norvel Pelle and Iman Shumpert, both of whom also are on non-guaranteed contracts.

Additional Depth for Brooklyn Nets

Vonleh joins Jeff Green, DeAndre Jordan and Pelle as a rotational depth piece in Brooklyn’s frontcourt. Jordan was forced to leave Saturday’s game against Philadelphia in the third quarter after Tyler Johnson fell into his leg. And Pelle, making his Nets debut after signing with the team in late January, finished with two points and five rebounds before fouling out in just over 17 minutes of playing time.

“I think DJ’s OK, I’m not positive,” Nash said after the loss in Philly, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “And Norvel was great. He’s out of shape a little bit for NBA standards; you could see him out there. I was proud of him for fighting through, trying to get his legs and his lungs going.

“He obviously has some instincts blocking shots, which is, I think, his reputation and why we looked at him. I was proud of the way he conducted himself and worked hard. He showed that he can block some shots.”

The Nets are hoping to see that from Vonleh, who has averaged 0.4 blocks in 16.9 minutes in the 335 career NBA games he’s played in.

The Nets currently rank fourth-worst in defensive efficiency.

“We know right now we’re not defending well enough,” Nash said Monday, via SNY. “We know that we have a long way to go before we will defend well enough. We’ve got to just start that journey and continue until we get there. It’s a priority. It’s tricky: We’re not a defensive team. We’re new to each other. We’ve had all this stopping and starting. Very few minutes between our Big Three relative to how many games we’ve played.

“And so it’s a ways out but it’s got to be a priority to improve a lot. … In the NBA, I think, solid defense and a great net rating is what (is needed to be championship-caliber). But you can’t be poor defensively. You just can’t. So we have to improve a lot defensively.”

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