As the New York Knicks continue exploring the vast number of point guard options they’ll chase this summer, the center position should also take priority, whether in the upcoming draft or free agency market.
Because as it stands today, Norvel Pelle and Mitchell Robinson are the only big men under contract for next season.
And Nerlens Noel, who started 41 games for the Knicks last year, is garnering a lot of interest as an unrestricted free agent.
He took over as starting center when Robinson suffered each of his injuries last year, and helped to anchor New York’s top-five defense along the way.
Losing him would mean losing their insurance policy at the position, and right now, all signs are pointing to a divorce between Noel and the Knicks.
Noel’s Pool of Suitors is Growing Daily
Reports have been multiplying in recent days of apparent league-wide interest in Nerlens Noel ahead of free agency.
The 27-year old big man averaged 5.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, and 1.1 steals across 64 appearances for the New York Knicks this year.
The latest report, however, didn’t have to travel far. SNY’s Ian Begley is reporting that the neighboring Brooklyn Nets have Noel “on their radar:”
Begley mentioned the Charlotte Hornets and Dallas Mavericks as other suitors for the center’s services.
But that’s not all.
HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto reported earlier this week that two other teams, the Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors, are also keeping an eye on Noel:
A couple of teams have Nerlens Noel on their free agency radar. Among those teams, the Sacramento Kings and the Toronto Raptors, I’m told.
But he did go on to note that there’s interest on the Knicks end in bringing the big man back for 2021-2022:
The Knicks also remain interested in potentially re-signing Noel as a guy who was pretty instrumental in their defensive ranking as a team during the season. It seemed like a match made in Heaven with coach Tom Thibodeau.
As is always the case, it will come down to negotiations centered around the dollar amount, but also the fit.
Noel left New York as their starting center, but assuming Mitchell Robinson is healthy to start the year, he’ll likely be relegated back to the second unit.
But his presence with the Knicks next season isn’t as certain as it once was.
Mitchell Robinson’s Future will Headline Knicks Offseason
One reason the New York Knicks might be interested in bringing Nerlens Noel back next season is in anticipation of Mitchell Robinson not being with the team.
They’ve yet to make a decision on his team option for 2021-2022, which will determine his status as a free agent in 2022.
Extension talks, if they’ve already taken place, have made little ground on linking the two parties for the foreseeable future.
And it wouldn’t surprise to see him out of New York, after injuries have derailed each his progress from last offseason. He played just 31 games this year due to injuries in his foot and hand.
Mitchell Robinson center may feel he’s owed the value of what he’s showed on the court when healthy.
But the New York Knicks may argue that hasn’t been of recent, leading to a stalemate between the two.
It’s something that bears monitoring with the 2021 NBA Draft just weeks away, and the offseason just behind it.