He stands six-foot-11. He has one of the more unorthodox shots in the NBA. He supports a hair bun. He won two championships at Florida. He is Joakim Noah.
The Chicago Bull center has been one of the more popular stories in the NBA this season. After guard Derrick Rose injured his knee again, the Bulls traded All-Star small forward Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Fans around the NBA assumed the Bulls would join the number of other teams in tanking. It made sense. Imagine a line up featuring Rose, Jimmy Butler, Noah, Wiggins and whomever else the Bulls could sign this summer? But Noah would not let the Bulls tank. Instead, the Bulls, with the guidance of Noah, have been the talk of the NBA as they are tied for third place in the Eastern Conference. Obviously there’s more to the Bulls’ success then Noah. But Noah has been the catalyst.
Every team needs a leader—a person to make his teammates better, to speak before, during and after games and to play harder each game. Noah solidifies each of those roles. The All-Star has been known throughout his career for his defense. He’s the glue to his coaches’ dynamic defense. He has proven before he’s the most important member of the Bulls’ defense, but it’s his improvement on offense that maybe show he’s the most valuable player on the Bulls on both offense and defense.
The Bulls had an issue. They had been struggling to score points. Rose had been out and the Bulls chose to utilize Noah as a main offensive option. This issue came about last season when Deng, Nate Robinson and Marco Bellineli had been members of the Bulls.
Last year Noah averaged four assists a game. A fantastic number for a big man, and the beginning of what has surfaced this season. That’s where Noah’s offensive game transformed into something truly remarkable. Since 1985, there have been four games where a center has had at least 12 assists. (Basketball-reference) Joakim Noah has two of them in 2014, within a month of each other. On the season, Noah averages 5.1 assists per game.
The Bulls feature Noah as the focal point of the offense. Everything goes through Noah. Mike Dunleavy, Kirk Hinrich, D.J. Augustin, and Jimmy Butler feed Noah from the wing or point, and then Noah decides whom to throw it to next. Noah likes feeding Boozer or Taj Gibson inside since both are great at sealing off defenders. It’s clear, from a number standpoint, that Noah has been a major difference in Chicago’s offense. He has higher assist, rebound and point averages this year.
Noah’s dad has been a pretty good tennis player, and from watching Yannick Noah’s highlights, and also his in-game interview on ABC it’s easy to see where Joakim gets his passion for life. Noah’s passion for the game of basketball can’t be put into words. His aggressiveness on defense, his tenacious pursuit of a rebound, his yelling and chest pounding after making a big play.
Noah fits in the city of Chicago. Noah represents everything the NBA should want to represent. He’s honest with the media, he earns his money, he cares about others and no matter the situation he will work his tail off.