Sometimes it’s not about how you start, but how you finish. Noah Vonleh, a former top-ten pick from the 2014 NBA Draft, got off to a slow start in his professional career, despite being highly regarded after leaving the University of Indiana. Prior to his arrival in New York, Vonleh played for three teams within his first four years in the league and struggled to maintain any progress made on this level.
But things quickly changed for the 6’9” forward once he signed with the Knicks last year. Whether it was producing career-high numbers or displaying his maturity and impressive body frame, Vonleh put in a lot of work in the 68 games he played for the Knicks. And because of that, the Indiana product certainly extended his lifeline in the NBA.
2018-’19 Stats: 8.4 PPG (47.0 FG% / 33.5 3P% / 71.2 FT%), 7.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, 13.9 PER
More than anything, Vonleh proved to be a very effective and efficient scorer when given his share of shots last season. Out of the 25 games, for which he scored 10+ points and averaged eight shot attempts, Vonleh shot better than 50% from the field, 20 times.
But what made Vonleh a pleasant surprise contributor for the Knicks was his defense and rebounding. The 2014 Draft Class member not only posted career highs in blocks and steals, he also defended multiple positions on a nightly basis. His work on likely MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was particularly impressive.
Giannis Points Per 100 by Defender (min. 100 matchups):— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) May 24, 2019
1. Kawhi Leonard ... 15.9
2. Blake Griffin ........ 31.2
3. Marvin Williams .. 31.7
4. Pascal Siakam ... 33.2
5. Noah Vonleh ...... 36.3
6. Thad Young ....... 37.1
7. Al Horford .......... 40.6
8. Joel Embiid ....... 51.0
Crucially, Vonleh finished with a top-30 mark across the league in DRR (Defensive Rebound Rate). This development was needed for a team that parted ways with Enes Kanter and Kristaps Porzingis and had to sometimes depend on Westchester Knicks big men/call-up’s Luke Kornet and Isaiah Hicks.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all god for Vonleh. His three-point shooting fell off a cliff as the calendar flipped to 2019, as you can see in this chart.
The 2018 version of Vonleh, shooting better than 40% from beyond the arc, was almost too good to be true. But that shooting percentage sunk like a stone until a brief uptick in March, before an injury ended Vonleh’s season prematurely.
If anything, his poor finish to the season might be the only chance the Knicks have of bringing him back. If he had kept up his early-season numbers throughout the 2018=19 campaign, Vonleh would be a virtual lock to sign a multi-year deal for decent money. As it stands, however, he probably showed enough all-around game this season to price himself off a Knicks team looking to spend every last penny of cap money on superstars.
But hey, if the Knicks find the money to re-sign him, he was one of the few players on the 2018-19 squad who might contribute to a good team.