Top 50 NBA Players: #19 Joakim Noah

Joakim Noah
Resume: 11.9 points (career best), 11.1 rebounds (career best), 4.0 assists (career best), 1.2 steals (career best), 2.1 blocks (6th in league, career best), 36.8 minutes (career best), 48% FG, and 75% FT (career best)… Team record in games played: 36-30 (9-7 without)… Playoffs: 10.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.2 blocks (career best), 34.1 minutes, 44% FG, 64% FT, 5-7 record… All-Star, 12th in MVP Voting, 1st Team All-Defense

I’m not sure if I would’ve believed it if in 2007 somebody told me that Joakim Noah would be a Top 20 player in the league at any point in his career. It seemed like Noah’s ceiling was somewhere along the lines of “best energy guy/hustle guy/obnoxious guy in the league.” Coincidentally, that distinction probably does belong to Noah, but there is more to his game than just that though. Noah has transitioned from the loud goofball who did it big with his Gator Boys after big games and came closer to grinding with Bill Raftery than anyone else ever has, to being labeled a workhorse, glue-guy, and heart of the team. How the heck did that happen?

March 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) grabs a rebound against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

With Derrick Rose out for what ended up being the entire season, it was on Noah to shoulder a larger burden for the shorthanded Bulls. Just like Noah, the Bulls season wasn’t pretty; it was rough around the edges, ugly at times and apparently easy to disregard. The only storyline casual fans will remember is the never-ending “When will Derrick Rose come back?” narrative that became nauseating by the time spring rolled around. It’s surprising with how loud and well, different looking, Joakim Noah is, that more people didn’t catch on and see that the Bulls were overachieving in large part because of how well Noah was playing.

I could be very simple and list out every essential thing Noah does for Chicago, but that would be a bit oxymoronic to do when discussing such a complex, unique and multidimensional player like him. Like a Swiss Army knife, Noah is capable of just about anything on the court. He anchored the third best defense in the NBA and served as the central figure of the offense. Not many centers can switch out and guards and defend as effectively as Noah. Depending on how you feel about the Gasol brothers, you could argue that Noah is the best passer among all big men. Speaking of Marc Gasol, the Defensive Player of the Year could’ve just as easily been awarded to Joakim Noah. Hopefully a time will come when it’s understood that he added the extra muscle needed to in order to be an effective NBA center, became an elite rebounder, transformed himself into a more than capable offensive player – even though he’s currently sitting in 3rd place in the Ugly Jump Shot Power Rankings behind Shawn Marion and Kevin Martin—and improved his one on one defense, while still maintaining the whole loud, obnoxious, long hair, work-harder-than-everyone-else-on-the-court shtick.

It’s not exactly a groundbreaking concept, but Noah’s NBA success has been a perfect mix of finding himself in an enviable situation and working his tail off to become a better player at the next level.  Personally, I loved Joakim Noah and those Florida Gators teams, but I never expected him to be where he is now. He may be the wealthy man’s Anderson Varejao and the modern day Bill Laimbeer, but what exactly does that make him? I don’t really know. What I do know is when Chicago went to Brooklyn for Game 7, Noah limped onto the court with Plantar Fasciitis and an imaginary minute restriction and then proceeded to embarrassingly outwork every single Nets player on the floor. Nobody wanted to win that game more than Joakim Noah did, and more than any other reason, that’s why he is a Top 20 player.