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Report: Knicks, Clippers exploring Nerlens Noel trade

Nerlens Noel in Los Angeles Clippers v New York Knicks

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 23: Nerlens Noel #3 of the New York Knicks handles the ball during the game against the LA Clippers on January 23, 2022 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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The Knicks are trying to open cap space in their pursuit of Jalen Brunson. New York already unloaded Kemba Walker’s salary onto the Pistons.

Is moving Nerlens Noel -- who’s due $9.24 million this season and $9.68 million next season -- to the Clippers next?

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype:

The New York Knicks have had exploratory discussions on trading center Nerlens Noel to the Los Angeles Clippers, league sources told HoopsHype.

Noel could fit into the Serge Ibaka trade exception.

If unloading Noel for no salary in return, the Knicks would project to have about $25 million million in cap space. Maybe enough for Brunson.

Noel is coming a down season that included foot issues. But when healthy, the 28-year-old is quite helpful in a limited role as an active defender, plus rebounder and efficient finisher.

Adding his salary would be quite costly, especially given the luxury-tax ramifications. But Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has proven a willingness to spend big, giving his team an advantage.

L.A. could use a backup center with Isaiah Hartenstein hitting free agency. John Wall is seemingly taking the Clippers’ mid-level exception, leaving just the Non-Bird Exception (120% of the minimum salary) for Hartenstein. Though the promise of Early Bird Rights next summer could intrigue Hartenstein, that might not be enough to keep him.

Noel would be a heck of a replacement (if healthy) – one possible only because of Ballmer’s seemingly limitless budget.