The departure of Joakim Noah in the New York Knicks is inevitable, especially with his ongoing feud with coach Jeff Hornacek. Few NBA teams are reportedly interested in signing him once he’s waived or bought out by the Knicks, including the Oklahoma City Thunder. Will Noah be the Thunder’s new primary backup center?
After returning from injury and suspension, Joakim Noah found himself out of the Knicks’ rotation. He only played seven games, averaging 1.7 points and 2.0 rebounds on 5.7 minutes on the court. The limited playing time forced him to confront coach Jeff Hornacek during a practice session last month in which they had to be separated. According to ESPN, Hornacek confirmed that Noah will no longer return to the team and as of now, they are working on a solution for the benefit of both parties.
“He’s ready to move on and maybe have an opportunity somewhere else,” Hornacek said.
The Knicks have two options – waive or buy out Joakim Noah. Per Ian Begley of ESPN, the Knicks would prefer to buy out Noah than waive him. Using the stretch provision may have given them salary cap space for the next two summers, but it will have a huge effect on their spending in 2020 free agency and beyond. Begley noted that the Oklahoma City Thunder are among the teams interested in signing Noah once he becomes a free agent.
“If Noah is bought out or waived, opposing executives expect the Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves to be among the teams interested in signing him.”
After a dismal start, the Thunder’s “Big Three” of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony finally started to show good chemistry and won six of their last 10 games. However, the acquisition of George and Anthony last summer left the Thunder with a shallow bench. Erik Horne of The Oklahoman believes the Thunder could seek a backup center in the buyout market in which Joakim Noah perfectly makes sense.
Noah may not already be in his prime but he can still contribute in terms of protecting the rim and rebounding. With the presence of Westbrook, George, and Anthony, the Thunder obviously doesn’t need another scoring option, but someone who can boost their defense. However, since the Thunder are already more than $13 million above the NBA’s tax threshold, they could only sign Noah to a veteran minimum deal.