Name: Joakim Noah
Years in the NBA: 13
Key stats: Noah played 50 minutes over five seeding games. He scored 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting while adding 16 rebounds and seven assists.
Future contract status: The Clippers have Noah signed to a minimum contract for 2020-21, but the deal is non-guaranteed.
The Clippers and Noah had mutual interest in one another during the 2019 offseason, but those plans fell through when Noah suffered an achilles injury. After he rehabbed, the team signed Noah to a 10-day contract on March 6. Then, the league suspended its operations on March 11, and that ended up being one of the longest 10-day contracts in NBA history. At the end of June, when plans for the restart were finalized, it was reported that Noah had been signed by the team for the rest of the season and for 2020-21 despite having not played a minute for the Clippers.
Noah was at his most impactful for the Clippers during the scrimmage games in the bubble, when Montrezl Harrell was away from the team and Ivica Zubac was recovering from the coronavirus. He played 57 minutes over the three games, chipping in 13 points, 17 rebounds, nine assists, and five blocks. The Clippers were a team-best plus-17 with Noah on the floor during those games.
Once Zubac returned to health, Noah was all but eliminated from the rotation. He played big minutes in the team’s seeding game finale against Oklahoma City with four Clippers starters resting, but saw the floor for a combined two minutes over the 13 postseason contests.
There were two reasons the Clippers brought in Noah, and the first was to be a veteran mentor to Ivica Zubac. In that respect, his signing was an unqualified success. Zubac saw his best stretch of play during the postseason, undoubtedly picking up tips from the former defensive player of the year while thankfully retaining his own prettier (and more effective) shooting form. The two centers spoke with The Athletic about their bond during the hiatus.
On the court, Noah still had some of the strengths that made him such a valuable player at his peak. He’s a good ball mover and continuously sets screens off the ball, little things that add some flow to the halfcourt offense. Noah is particularly good at the short roll pass from the middle of the floor to a shooter in the corner or on the wing. Defensively, he still has quick hands and an uncanny ability to strip the ball without fouling — he’s a lot like Andre Iguodala in that respect. Noah communicates well on that end and still has the ability to anchor a good defense.
Noah is a great teammate overall. He’s loud on the bench and actively cheers the players on the floor. Those were valuable additions in the bubble.
The second reason the Clippers signed Noah was to theoretically give the team another big body against the bulkier centers in the league. However, he didn’t fare well against Dwight Howard or the other Lakers bigs in the first seeding games. Noah also wasn’t used at all against Nikola Jokic or Boban Marjanovic — whether that was a function of the Clippers not wanting to extend their rotation or Noah not being ready to go, the fact remains that he didn’t contribute in matchups when the Clippers were struggling.
Despite his superior passing ability, Noah is a net negative on offense. He struggles to finish around the basket due to his awkward touch, and he’s a poor free throw shooter. The Clippers didn’t bring him in for his offensive production, so that’s a not a deal-breaker, but that does reduce Noah’s utility at this point in his career.
Future with the Clippers:
Noah is under contract for next season, but the non-guarantee means that the Clippers don’t have to keep him on the team if they find better ways to fill out their roster. Given that the regular season will likely be on a truncated schedule next year, the Clippers will need to utilize all of their depth options to keep players fresh for the playoffs. It’s unclear if Noah is capable of that level of consistency at age 35 (he turns 36 in February), but he’s still a good defensive center who can contribute in a more limited capacity.
If Noah does leave the Clippers, keep an eye on Chicago, where he started his career and where his college coach Billy Donovan is the new head coach.
Overall grade: Incomplete
As with Mfiondu Kabengele, it’s hard to give a grade for fewer than 100 minutes, even if Noah has a larger body of work.