With the NBA draft rapidly approaching, the rumor mill has started to turn with respect to the Knicks. One name constantly being thrown around is that of Nerlens Noel. The experienced center’s time in New York appears as if it may be up. This rings true especially if he can be utilized in order to allow the Knicks to select higher up in the draft. During last year’s draft, the Knicks made three trades, highlighting how they may once again take a bullish approach to trades and not be afraid of blowing up their core, particularly after the disappointment of last season.
Entering the 2021/22 NBA season, Nerlens Noel’s stock was arguably at the highest point it had been since he entered the league. During the 2020/21 season, he was the only center to average over two blocks and one steal per game, as well as finishing third in the NBA for defensive win shares (3.6). Therefore, it was seen as a shrewd investment after the Knicks elected to sign him to a three-year contract worth an estimated $9.24 million AAV.
This, with the benefit of hindsight, could be suggested to be a slight overpay for Noel. This year, his output was severely limited by injuries (only playing a part of 25 games). In addition to this, the emergence of Jericho Sims as Mitchell Robinson’s understudy has put the role Noel has within Tom Thibodeau’s system into question and thus it seems logical that the Knicks will move on from the 6’11 Kentucky alumnus for the forthcoming season.
Now, the most pressing question on everyone’s minds is likely to be: ‘What value, if any, does Nerlens Noel possess?’ With Jaden Ivey currently being the apple of the Knicks’ eye, it should be believed that the Knicks may utilize Noel as a piece with which to move up in the draft. Additionally, Noel’s team option for the 2023/24 season would give the team that acquires him a degree of flexibility. Despite this, his injury history, his apparent regression shown last season, and the fact that given Mitchell Robinson is looking likely to sign a multi-year per Marc Stein, his role within the side is limited means that the Knicks will be likely to accept any offer that comes in order to get him off their books.
Overall, one can see that Nerlens Noel’s trade value may not necessarily be all that high in today’s climate. However, the size of his contract allows for him to be a throw-in in any trade that may be made by the Knicks.
The most likely trade that could happen with Noel would involve the Portland Trailblazers. Given that it is clear they are in a win-now mode to appease Damian Lillard and make the most of his years as an elite-level player, they may be more inclined to part ways with the seventh pick in this year’s draft. A potential scenario may involve the Knicks trading Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, and their eleventh overall pick in exchange for their seventh overall selection. This gives the Knicks greater scope to select high-end prospects such as Benedict Mathurin at the seventh pick as well as increasing their draft capital for a potential trade with the Sacramento Kings so that the Knicks could select Jaden Ivey with the fourth overall pick (given that the Banchero, Smith and Holmgreen trifecta is, at this moment in time, is the consensus for the top 3 picks).
To conclude, Noel will likely have an important role in the Knicks’ offseason. Moving on from him will free up cap space as well as the fact that his still elite defense, can aid any team with aspirations of contending, provided he can stay healthy that is.