Joakim Noah is one of the most valuable players in the NBA. The New York Knicks only needed two regular season games to understand why.
The New York Knicks didn’t sign Joakim Noah to dominate individual games or lead the league in a statistical area. For as brilliant an all-around player as he may be, one could even argue that Noah’s versatility wasn’t the primary reason for his acquisition.
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Whether he’s a star or a role player, the reason for New York’s signing of Noah is as clear as day: it’s all about changing the culture.
Noah has the special ability to enter a locker room and immediately change the manner in which his teammates approach the game. It’s a gift that few have ever possessed, with future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett being the most apt comparison.
Though it’s only been two regular season games, the Knicks are already beginning to feel the Joakim Noah effect.
Joakim Noah's ear was bandaged up after the game. "Game 1 in the Garden, stitched up, you know. I wouldn’t have it any other way," he said.
Through two games, the Knicks are a +22.6 with Noah on the floor and a -31.3 when he’s been on the bench—a difference of 53.9 points per 100 possessions. It’s only been two games, but that’s one of the most absurd statistics you’ll hear all year.
In just two games, the Knicks have been almost 54 points better per 100 possessions with Noah on the floor than without him.
The Knicks have received just over 41 registered minutes of court time from Noah, meaning it’s played roughly 55 minutes without him. In the near 42 minutes that he’s been on the floor, Noah has helped New York play as though it’s one of the league’s elite.
That includes his +/- of -1 during a 29-point loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers and a game-high +/- of +16 during a seven-point win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
It’s only been two games, but Noah has already established how influential he can be to team success. That’s especially impressive when one considers the fact that he’s only scored six points in two games.
The question is: why are the Knicks struggling without him?
New York’s starters are actually faring quite well in the advanced metrics, but the reserves haven’t been as helpful. The Knicks have a net rating of -17.1 with Kyle O’Quinn on the court and are a -40.8 when Willy Hernangomez is on the floor.
It’s far too early to value these numbers as the end-all, be-all, but it’s clear that New York needs something better from its backup centers.