Before the season began, I gave Indiana Pacers’ center Roy Hibbert a slight edge over Chicago Bulls’ center Joakim Noah in my “Stacking up the East” series. My reasoning was that Hibbert is a slightly bigger force on the defensive side of the ball, completely clogging up the paint. And while neither is a prolific offensive player, I felt that the two were even enough on offense that Hibbert’s defensive edge was the tiebreaker.
Face, meet egg.
Noah has been playing out of his mind during the Bulls’ resurgence towards the top of the Leaster…I mean, Eastern Conference.
While Hibbert has stayed the defensive force he already was, he has often been a non-factor, and even sometimes a negative, on offense for the Pacers.
Noah, on the other hand, has been playing some of the best all-around
basketball in the entire NBA, including his trademark controlled-chaos defense. On top of that, Noah has upped his scoring and is rebounding the ball at a ridiculous rate.
Here are some of Noah’s stat lines over the last 24 games, during which the Bulls are 17-7 (Points/Rebounds/Assists):
Noah has always been an excellent passer, but the assist numbers are fantastic. He is rebounding like Kevin Love. And with the two best offensive players on the team at the beginning of the season, Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, no longer in uniform, Noah has been more aggressive in looking to score.
Noah, along with D.J. Augustin and Taj Gibson, have saved the Bulls’ season. They were toiling around .500, trading away longtime franchise centerpieces, and playing the ugliest basketball in the league. They still aren’t pretty to watch by any means, but it’s fun seeing Noah flying around with his hair on fire, grabbing boards and firing passes. It’s fun seeing D.J. Augustin be next in line in completely overachieving as a Bulls’ point guard (carrying on the torch from Nate Robinson, Mike James, and C.J. Watson). And it’s been fun seeing Gibson work some textbook post moves that we hadn’t seen before from him.
Going forward, the Bulls will always be competitive with Tom Thibodeau at the helm. With Noah’s play, Gibson’s improvement, and the continued development of Jimmy Butler (constantly slowed by injury) and Tony Snell, it turns out this Bulls’ season may not be so meaningless after all.