Joakim Noah may never suit up again for the Knicks, but the exiled center will have plenty of desirable options should he negotiate a buyout with the club. According to league sources, several playoff-bound teams are closely monitoring Noah’s situation in New York and would push to sign him if Noah becomes a free agent.
The Warriors, Timberwolves and Thunder are three such teams that believe Noah, who turns 33 on Sunday, could bolster their respective rosters for the postseason. Minnesota is an obvious one since it would reunite Noah with his former coach with the Chicago Bulls, Tom Thibodeau. Golden State and Oklahoma City also feel that Noah’s experience and defensive prowess would solidify their respective benches.
This season in particular, though, contenders such as Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Toronto and even Golden State have yet to make a buyout splash — and they’re all still actively looking. So I’m not sure this qualifies yet as any sort of buyout bonanza. Instinct tells me that we’ve already seen the big rule change in this department; you’ll recall that it wasn’t too long ago that players could be traded and then re-sign with the team that traded them 30 days later. That loophole, fortunately, was closed. But I frankly expected more of a buyout frenzy than we’ve seen because, with the trade deadline being moved up two weeks, buyout season got longer. As the rules currently stand: Any player waived by March 1 becomes playoff-eligible with his next team as long as that player is signed before the last day of the regular season.
The Knicks can also create cap space over the next two summers by stretching Joakim Noah’s contract. Doing so would reduce his cap hit to $7,565,000 over the next five years, beginning in 2018-19 and ending in 2022-23. But that would eat into money that the Knicks could spend on other free agents in the summer of 2020 and beyond. It’s not something the Knicks have seriously considered at this point, per sources.
As of late last week, Noah remained opposed to any buyout, per sources. One date to watch here is March 1, the last date by which Noah can sign with another team and still be eligible for the postseason. The Knicks, to this point, have shown no interest in simply waiving Joakim Noah, so it seems that it will be a test of wills as March approaches. 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.