Well, the already interesting Memphis Grizzlies just got even more interesting.
In a move that should surprise no one given that the sides had reportedly been flirting for weeks, the Memphis Grizzlies agreed to terms with former Defensive Player of the Year, Joakim Noah. From the Grizzlies Press Release:
Noah (6-11, 230) was named the 2013-14 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, was selected to the 2013-14 All-NBA First Team and finished fourth in the Most Valuable Player voting after setting career highs with averages of 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.24 steals for the Bulls that season. His career highlights also include two consecutive NBA All-Star appearances (2013, 2014), three NBA All-Defensive honors (Second Team in 2011, First Team in 2013 and 2014) and the 2015 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.
The 33-year-old has appeared in 625 games (511 starts) since he was selected ninth overall in the 2007 NBA Draft and has averaged 8.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.35 blocks in 28.6 minutes over 11 NBA seasons with the Chicago Bulls (2007-16) and New York Knicks (2016-18). He has recorded 192 double-doubles and seven triple-doubles in his regular season career. Noah also has started all 60 of his playoff games and has averaged 9.7 points, 11.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.77 blocks in 35.0 minutes.
Quick Reaction: This could be the Grizzlies biggest win this week.
I’ll dig deeper into this in this week’s print edition, but it’s hard for me to see a downside here. In Noah, you get immediate relief for Marc Gasol, without sacrificing on-court production or defense – as well as an insurance policy in case Gasol gets injured. Noah should provide immediate on the glass, as well. One could argue that if that’s ALL he does is rebound the ball, it’ll make a HUGE difference for the team.
But I think it’s bigger than that. Remember when Marc Gasol was being hailed as “one of the best-passing big men in the league?” Well, Noah was the other one, as evidenced by averaging 5.4 assists in 2013-14. If Noah can regain that “point center” mentality with his fellow reserves, he should be able to rack up plenty of assists. And I can only imagine when J.B. Bickerstaff deploys both at the same time — it could be an even more effective high-low tandem than Gasol and Randolph were.
But it doesn’t stop there, even. So let’s do the math: The Grizzlies drafted rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. because of this defensive motor, talent and athleticism. And now, he gets to go at not just one but TWO former Defensive Players of the Year in practice every day? How can THAT be a bad thing for a prodigy who wants to rule that end of the court?
And finally, there are the intangibles. We’ve heard the players talk about how refreshing it is to have so many defensive minded players. I can’t help but believe that Noah, especially after how he exited New York, will LOVE playing on this team. He’s always had a reputation for being a fiery competitor, and the Grizzlies have that in SPADES. Plus, his “IDGAF” attitude, combined with production on the court, should make him an instant Memphis favorite.
I’m skittish about overselling the impact here, especially before he plays a single game. And of course, there’s the caveat “if healthy” that we have to hang on everyone in the locker room. But one of the best defensive teams in the league just got better – and if you’re a Grizzlies fan, only good can come from such a thing.