The media has conditioned us to believe that guys who score 30 points a game, sell jerseys, and generally talk the talk are superstars. That’s why so many fans drool over the Carmelo Anthonys and Kevin Loves, even if they have never had any real NBA success outside of Carmelo’s Nuggets making the 2009 Western Conference Finals. There are guys that fall below the radar, but in reality are superstars and unless you’re a basketball nerd, you’d never really know it.
Will and I have been really hard on Joakim Noah this season. He started off this season in a malaise. We openly wondered on Twitter if he had pulled a Kevin McHale. If you’re not familiar with what we’re talking about, McHale played the 1986 playoffs and into the Finals on a broken ankle and just never looked the same afterwards. We wondered if Joakim Noah had gutted out that Brooklyn Nets series last year in the playoffs and subsequently, the series against Miami and we weren’t going to see that same guy anymore. Noah has taken that thought, slammed it in our faces, and made us eat our words. I couldn’t be happier.
Recently, Chad Ford of ESPN caused a stir by saying there were rumors that Joakim Noah is on the trade block. Immediately, I brushed it off and addressed it on Twitter. Frankly depending on how you look at it, Joakim Noah might be the best center in the National Basketball Association. Sounds absurd doesn’t it? I decided to research it and used many different criteria: Raw stats, field goals made that were assisted and not assisted, field goal percentages from every area on the court, percentages of rebounds they get, Player Impact Estimate, how many 2nd chance and points they score in the paint, how many points their opponents score in the paint, All-Star Appearances, Defensive Player of the Year Awards, All NBA Defensive Team mentions, All-NBA mentions, and advanced metrics such as opponents field goal percentage at the rim and percentage of rebounds per chance. Click here to view the chart. I ran these numbers for Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Andre Drummond, Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler, and Brook Lopez – the 7 best NBA centers I could think of and you know what I noticed? There’s not a center on that list that I would take over Joakim Noah.
His skills take a backseat to no other center in the NBA. He’s been unreal the last 10 games, averaging 13.7 points, 13.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2 blocks, and 1.3 steals in 36 minutes per game. His field goal percentage has been low – 44%, but he’s getting to the line almost 6 times a game and shooting 76% from there. The Bulls are 7-3 in that stretch. They just came off of a 5 game winning streak and Noah is the catalyst. Fans keep begging for Gar Forman and John Paxson to find that second star. The Bulls have that second star and his name is Joakim Noah. What he does on the basketball court is unmatched. Watch the following videos and tell me there’s any other big men that can do what he’s doing. The first is from 2009 and is a famous highlight from the playoffs when he stole the ball from Paul Pierce, went the length of the court, and slammed it:
The next one is from 2011-2012 and a game against the Hawks. The Bulls have run this play successfully numerous times, including this year, but Deng missed the layup. Remember, Derrick Rose was healthy and on fire in this game, but Thibs draws up this play for Noah and Deng:
Watch these next two videos and keep in mind this is your CENTER throwing alley-oops to your POWER FORWARD:
Bulls fans, we need to stop looking at Joakim Noah as this all-world energy guy and cheerleader and remember he’s a phenomenal basketball player on both ends. He’s a legitimate triple-double threat every night, he plays with passion and energy, he’s one of the top 3 centers in the NBA in my opinion, and the Bulls are fortunate to have him. He’s not some trade piece that can get us another star. He IS a star and he may not be what ESPN wants us to believe a star is, but he’s a winner, he’s a force in the paint, and he’s a leader. What more can you ask for from a star?