Joakim Noah signed a four-year $72.6 million deal with the New York Knicks. Noah made 46 appearances, was not particularly productive, and he may miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. He just turned 32. Noah has about $55.6 million due over the next three seasons. He has a chance to be the worst Knicks signing of the James Dolan era, which is saying something.
We’ll exclude Isiah Thomas hoovering up every atrocious NBA contract during the 2000s and limit the discussion to free agency. The major Knicks screwups have been of the traditional variety. The Knicks needed to do something. They overpay for a star-ish player pushing 30 at peak value and overlook concerns about the deal’s long-term viability.
Allan Houston re-signed with the Knicks for a six-year $100 million deal in 2001 when turning 30. Re-signing him was not inexplicable. He was coming off back-to-back all-star seasons. He won a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics. He put together about two and a half quality seasons, before suffering a knee injury that eventually ended his career and killing the Knicks’ cap space. Houston was such a suitable candidate the contract amnesty rule was termed the “Allan Houston Rule.” The Knicks ended up using the “Allan Houston Rule” on Jerome Williams.
The Knicks took a similar gamble with Amar’e Stoudemire. They couldn’t attract LeBron. They signed Amar’e, and his lengthy injury history, to a five-year $100 million deal. He had one all-star-ish season then spent the rest of his contract being injured and/or coming off the bench. FiveThirtyEight has Amar’e as the worst NBA free agent signing since 1996.
Another contender was an Isaiah Thomas special. Jerome James averaged 4.9 points and 3.0 rebounds in 16 minutes per game for Seattle. The Knicks signed him to a five-year $30 million contract. James made 90 appearances for New York over the course of the deal. The Knicks paid him $333,333 per game and $43,228 per minute.
Eddy Curry warrants discussion. The Knicks got him for a six-year $60 million deal. He started for three years and had a strong 2006-07 season before his career imploded for a myriad of reasons at age 26. As a signing itself, taking a flyer on a talented 22-year-old 7-footer who could score was at least defensible.
But, the trade to get him was the real killer in that deal that cost the Knicks two Top 10 picks which could have been LaMarcus Aldridge and a young, healthy Noah. The Knicks were terrible and not reaping the benefits from it. It was a bad deal, but it wasn’t a pure free agent signing. The Knicks have also committed more money to Noah for less production so far.
Arthroscopic surgery won’t be a career-ender for Noah. So, he should lower his dollar-per-minute number below James over the duration of the deal. He will be at $16,748 per minute for 2016-17 if he sits out the rest of the year. That said, there was at least some potential reward for the risks the Knicks took with the Stoudemire and Houston deals. They made short-term sense. Noah was already trending downward before he left the Bulls.
Maybe Noah bounces back healthy with a double-double next season (his first since 2014). But, he may just end up being the worst Knicks free agent signing of the James Dolan era.