New York Knicks: 4 Players who exceeded expectations this season

N(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
N(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /
3 of 5
New York Knicks
Nerlens Noel, New York Knicks (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

New York Knicks who exceeded expectations: Nerlens Noel

The former top 10 pick was a modest free agency signing when he was brought in on a 1-year, $5 million deal, expected to be a serviceable backup behind Mitchell Robinson. That changed when Robinson suffered a fractured hand and fractured foot, forcing Noel into the starting lineup.

Despite playing the backup role for the majority of his last four seasons in the NBA, Noel took over the starting center spot and immediately flourished.

His offense was limited but his defense completely made up for it, finishing 3rd in the entire NBA with 2.2 blocks per game. In fact, Noel was the only player in the league to average at least 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals.

His effort on defense has been superb all season long and he’ll likely be in for a big payday this summer. While that’s a topic for another time, the former Kentucky big has resurrected his NBA career and been a huge reason why the Knicks have a top 5 defense.

He’ll likely get even better in the playoffs, as games typically slow down and turn into defensive battles. In 3 games against the Atlanta Hawks this year, Noel is averaging 7.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game on 87.5% shooting.