The Los Angeles Clippers signed veteran center Joakim Noah to a 10-day contract on Friday, with a start date next week, in hopes they can fortify their frontcourt ahead of the final stretch of the NBA’s 2019-20 regular season.
The Clippers, currently five games behind Staples Center rival Los Angeles Lakers, are hoping that the 35-year-old Noah still has something left in the tank to go on a run here and make noise in the playoffs by April and May.
Noah’s career has taken an interesting turn since signing a four-year, $64 million deal as a free agent with the New York Knicks in the summer of 2016. However, despite his awkward falling out in the Big Apple, there are signs that the former Defensive Player of the Year with the Chicago Bulls can be an impactful player for L.A, especially in a role that provides depth behind Clippers players like Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell.
Energy on defense
First and foremost, Noah is a proud professional on defense who demands accountability on that side of the ball. The Clippers aren’t necessarily slackers themselves — currently fifth in the Association in defensive efficiency — but they can definitely use an added boost on that end, especially in the playoffs.
After crashing out of New York (with the Knicks waiving the center and stretching his contract so he’s still getting paid for the next couple of years), Noah landed with the Memphis Grizzlies for half a season last year, signing in December 2018 and appearing in 42 total games with the Southwest Division franchise.
On a new team, in a new role, post–bad reputation, Noah averaged 7.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 16.5 minutes per game. Per 36 minutes, Noah had averaged 1.6 blocks and 1.0 steal.
Noah proved himself more than competent coming off the bench against a Grizzlies squad that finished 15 games out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. The type of competition he would face while playing for the Clippers will be similar.
Further, it is worth noting that the former first-round selection posted a 101.7 defensive rating last season in his tenure with the Grizzlies. Memphis had a slightly worse defensive rating from the time Joakim joined the team until the end of the season, but they still finished ninth overall in that metric at 108, pointing to the center improving their overall rating even more in his short minutes.
Despite Noah’s veteran status in the league, he’s by no means a ball hog. His offensive reps will be limited if we’re talking field goal attempts, and he’s an above-average passer for his position. Noah has averaged 2.8 assists per game in his NBA career, with 5.4 a contest being his high watermark in 2013-14 with Chicago.
That should work for a bench unit that includes the dynamic duo Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, both of whom thrive with scoring. Noah should not infringe upon the Clippers’ current routine and rotation if Doc Rivers intends to insert the two-time NCAA champion for defensive reasons.
Signing Joakim Noah to a 10-day deal appears to be a low-risk move by Los Angeles to fortify their frontcourt and test out the free agency market post-trade deadline for a diamond in the rough before the playoffs start.