The New York Knicks are ecstatic to have veteran big man Nerlens Noel back in the lineup, giving them added defensive prowess in the paint. Noel has been dealing with a sore knee the past few weeks, holding him out of the preseason and start of the regular season, but he made a significant impact against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night.
Noel featured in 24 minutes, three more than Mitchell Robinson, contributing six points, three steals, and 13 rebounds, five of which were offensive.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau realized that Noel was the hot hand, specifically with his positioning and ability to give his teammates more opportunities. There is a reason the team re-signed Noel to a three-year, $27 million extension after all.
However, the duo of Noel and Robinson can become something unique and special, with a focus on elite defense.
â€œMe and Mitch do similar things but we do it different ways,â€ Noel said, via the NY Post. â€œSo I bring what I bring â€” being aggressive on the pick-and-rolls, hedging out and getting guys uncomfortable, as well as protecting the rim. Mitch brings what he brings with his size and physicality.â€
Thibodeau mentioned how great Noel is on defending pick and rolls while also sustaining excellent rim protection. Noel didnâ€™t seem to miss a beat regarding his stamina on Friday, despite missing the beginning of the year.
Nerlens envisions the Knicks having a “Twin Towers” duo, made up of height and quality defense.
â€œMitch did a great job holding it down,â€™â€™ Noel added. â€œWe want to get to the level of having two Twin Towers back and holding down the paint.â€™â€™
On the season, Robinson is contributing 7.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game, so combining their statistics, they both should contribute about 20 rebounds together on any given night.
Against the Bucks, the team came together defensively and made life extremely difficult for them in the second half of a resilient win. Thanks to fantastic interior defense and elevated perimeter defense, the Knicks overcame a 21 point deficit to win by 15. If the duo of Noel and Robinson can continue to develop and grow, we could see something special in the paint this season.