Per game stats:
80 games played, 35.3 minutes per game, 12.6 points on 47.5% shooting, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.4 turnovers, 1.2 steals, 1.5 blocks.
Joakim had his best regular season as a pro ever. He managed to play 80 games on a heavy minutes load and lead the team in minutes by far. He combined his frenetic energy, smarts, and instincts to guide the Bulls to the second best defense in the league. For his efforts, he was rewarded with the Defensive Player of the Year Award. On top of the defensive impact and resulting accolades, Noah did just about everything else well, save for scoring efficiently.
He also made clear that he is the league’s very best passer from the center spot, as his 5.4 assists per game far outpaced Marc Gasol’s second place finish at 3.6. Operating primarily out of the high post, Noah was able to use his vision, precise passing, and angles to hit cutters all over the floor. He was able to do this primarily as a result of teams playing off him, due to his mediocre jump shooting ability. Additionally, when working from that high post position, Noah was frequently able to take slower-footed bigs off the dribble with his guard-like handles. There were also innumerable times when Jo was able to run the break in transition in a way that no other center in the league can currently. Noah is one of the league’s most unique players, and this year, due to the loss of Derrick Rose, he was forced to demonstrate every last bell and whistle of his game. He responded to that challenge and he was truly a joy to watch, all year.
Joakim’s 53% True Shooting on just 12.6 points per game is still not the kind of efficiency you hope for from a 7 footer. Some of that was the result of his increased offensive load, but Noah has been mediocre at scoring the ball for most of his career, when usage and efficiency are considered together, and that certainly didn’t change this year. Noah was also apparently hurt once again at the end of the year, as he needed knee surgery following the Bulls first round loss to the Wizards.
Speaking of that first round, Joakim was absolutely bullied by the Wizards frontline duo of Marcin Gortat and Nene. Nene was largely able to neutralize Noah’s high post passing by crowding him, which also limited his ability to get a head of steam putting the ball on the floor to get by the Brazilian big man.
Noah’s postseason was disappointing, but through his 2800+ minutes of stellar regular season play, he more or less carried the Bulls to a 48 win season when, following the Rose injury and Deng trade, it looked like they’d be watching ping pong balls in this Tuesday’s draft lottery. Instead, they finished 4th in the East. The Bulls’ lack of overall talent was obvious in the first round, but good on Joakim and his teammates for grinding out all those wins. It was fun and totally worth it.
Noah has 2 years and $25.6 million remaining on his contract. Given his impact on the floor and the premium usually charged when paying centers, the Bulls have an absolute bargain in Noah. The real question is what to do in 2 years when Noah’s deal expires and he’s 30 years old. With his history of injuries, how much do you commit to him at that point? It’s an interesting question, but fortunately, not one the Bulls have to wrestle with any time in the immediate future. For the record, I’m on the “Noah should retire a Bull” bandwagon, but I understand how rare a thing that is in the modern NBA. Next year, Noah should still be firmly in his prime, with Rose (fingers crossed) returning and possibly some new faces in the fold (Kevin Love, please???) to make another run at Miami and Indiana.
Statistics cited in this post via NBA.com/stats.