We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For the past few weeks, and through the start of the NBA season, we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season.
In the two seasons since, they have combined to produce 8.3 win shares.
For perspective, Gordon Hayward posted 8.9 win shares last season alone.
It wasn’t long ago Rose and Noah also surpassed that mark individually. But injuries and aging have sapped both of athleticism, leaving them as unreliable contributors and unable to meet the lofty expectations set by their prior achievements.
Yet, the Knicks paid significantly to acquire the former Bulls this offseason. New York signed Noah to a four-year, $72.59 million contract. While Rose doesn’t carry nearly the same long-term commitment on an expiring deal, the Knicks still traded a productive center on a cost-controlled contract (Robin Lopez) and the No. 19 pick in just last year’s draft (Jerian Grant) for Rose.
The question is no longer whether Rose and Noah will match their peak form. They almost assuredly cannot. The question is whether Rose and Noah will offer adequate return on New York’s investment.
This is the Knicks way of bridging the gap between 32-year-old Carmelo Anthony and 21-year-old Porzingis. New York is depending on Rose and Noah to elevate the team in the short term and, in at least Noah’s case, sustain success. Mostly, it’s an attempt to win during Anthony’s closing window. But the length of Noah’s deal assumes prolonged production – which is probably overly optimistic on Phil Jackson’s part.
Noah has become a horrendous finisher at the rim, and he has lost confidence in his mid-range jumper. That has made passing his lone useful skill with the ball, and while he’s an excellent passer for his size, defenses know it. His decreased scoring threat makes it easier for defenses to cover passing lanes.
On the bright side, Noah has redoubled his effort as a defender and rebounder – and he’s still excellent at both. He’s not the same rim protector he was in his prime, but his intelligence and mobility help him stifle pick-and-rolls.
Still, he’s 31. Paying a player who has already shown such major signs of decline to age 36 is always a dangerous game.
There isn’t much more certainty around Rose, who is suddenly 28 – an age he’d probably begin to slow down even if it weren’t for his well-known knee injuries
Last season, Rose showed a far greater understanding than ever about how to play without elite athleticism. The result: A middling-at-best starting point guard. That might be Rose optimizing his abilities at this point, but if this is his new normal, it leaves a lot to be desired.
Rose still used a huge number of possessions, though well below his peak rate, and did so with poor efficiency. He developed more of a mid-range game, but that doesn’t do much given his depleted finishing ability and never-trustworthy 3-pointer.
Rose’s diminished athleticism has also exposed underwhelming distribution and defensive skills.
At least he missed just 16 games, compared to 212 over the previous four years.
Then again, celebrating a player missing “just” 16 games exposes how far the standards have fallen for Rose.
The Knicks must integrate Rose on the fly after he missed much of the preseason while successfully defending himself in a civil rape trial. Then, his contract expires in July, creating more uncertainty at point guard. If Rose plays well, will New York re-sign him? If he doesn’t, can Brandon Jennings do enough to keep the Knicks afloat?
At least there are possibilities there.
There are far fewer with Noah, whose contact is fully guaranteed. Porzingis’ ideal long-term position appears to be center, but Noah is a roadblock.
The ideal outcome for New York, of course, is Rose and Noah playing well. Whatever complications that would bring – whether or not to re-sign Rose, how to use Porzingis – the Knicks would be operating from a position of strength and just feeling good about winning.
But the alternative creates a fire more dire situation – another lost season, three more years of Noah and no answer at point guard.
I wouldn’t want so much riding on Rose and Noah, but the Knicks have made their bed. For better or worse, they’ll have to lie in it.