While the future of Mitchell Robinson with the New York Knicks is unclear, the team has another decision to make regarding one of their centers.
Nerlens Noel had an injury-plagued year, but when he’s healthy he can be a dominant shot-blocker and rim defender. He was even becoming a serviceable jump shooter and was trying to add a three-point shot into his arsenal.
He’ll presumably be healthy and ready to go for the Knicks to start the year, and if Robinson’s not there, he could even fill in and be the starter. If Robinson decides to return, Noel would be a good backup, so it’s a good situation for the team either way.
An NBA executive speaking to Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney says the Knicks could get creative and dangle him in a trade if they don’t decide to keep him on the roster.
What is Noel’s Future?
The exec says the Knicks look likely to bring back Robinson, so they would like to get something for Noel while they have the chance to do it.
“They’re probably going to match on Mitchell Robinson so they’d like to get something while they can on Noel,” said the exec. “His contract is not bad, and it’s a team option for next season (2023-24) so paying him $9 million as a backup center is fine, he can even be a spot starter. But they will want to see how things go with Robinson, he is a candidate for a sign-and-trade if that is the direction they go, then you will want to keep Noel. But it looks like Robinson will stay put so the Knicks could do something with Noel, he is a good candidate if you need a backup big guy.”
Robinson has been critical of his role with the Knicks, and that is something the team is concerned about according to the New York Post’s Marc Berman.
“According to a source, the Knicks’ main concern is how the 24-year-old Robinson will respond if he gets a lucrative long-term deal,” he wrote. “Maturity has always been an issue with the 2018 second-round pick from Louisiana.”
If that results in Robinson walking, then Noel’s value with the Knicks would skyrocket. If Robinson stays, there are some different avenues New York can explore.
A Trade Possible?
Shopping Noel could be lucrative for the Knicks if they want to land some help on the wing.
“The Lakers wanted him last year when they were talking with the Raptors and Knicks,” said the exec. “That could come back up if they were willing to give up Talen Horton-Tucker and the Knicks would have to send back a pick of some kind.”
Horton-Tucker is 21 years old and an NBA champion, and while his shooting isn’t eye-popping, he can be effective in the right situation. Although the Lakers didn’t have a great year, THT posted a career-high 10 points per game, so the improvement is there.
If the Knicks snagged him, he’d fit right in on the timeline with the rest of the young core including RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley. For the Lakers, a player like Noel could fit them well as it gives them a younger rim protector instead of an aging veteran like Dwight Howard or DeAndre Jordan.
The Knicks still have youngster Jericho Sims on the roster, and Taj Gibson would presumably return if the team wants him to.