The reason for Knicks’ success, and it’s not Julius Randle
The New York Knicks have fully established themselves as a true threat in the East this season. While this has been thanks in large part to the outstanding play of first-time All-Star Julius Randle, the Knicks also actually have one of the most underrated players in the NBA today.
6-foot-11 big man Nerlens Noel has been an unstrung hero for the Knicks, and he has the numbers to prove it (h/t Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report):
Nerlens Noel ranks
1st in NBA in defensive plus-minus,
2nd in NBA in block % for the
3rd best defensive team in the NBA while earning
$5M on a one-year deal
Talk about this more
— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) April 13, 2021
Randle has been the talk of the town for New York, as well as sophomore sensation RJ Barrett — and rightfully so. Both these guys are currently playing some of the best basketball of their respective careers and it has translated to wins for the Knicks.
However, as the tweet above mentions, we have to talk about Nerlens Noel more.
Right now, the 2013 sixth overall pick is putting up averages of 5.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 2.1 blocks in 23.1 minutes of play. Randle and Barrett have been doing such an outstanding job on the offensive end that it’s easy to overlook the fact that Noel has served as the defensive anchor for the Knicks.
As of writing, the Knicks currently hold the eighth and final spot in the East, but right now, they are also just a game and a half behind the fourth-placed Atlanta Hawks. This is how tight the race has become in the conference and by the looks of it, New York is bound to make their first postseason appearance in eight long years.
We need to put more respect into Nerlens Noel’s name.