Joakim Noah: Worth and Consequences

In case you didn’t see this weekend’s article by Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld, allow me to fill you in:

Rather than showing up early for this year’s training camp — which begins today, by the way — Joakim Noah is showing up close to the last minute.

Not late, mind you. Just not early.

This is a semi-big deal because, as Kennedy put it, “the team likes to have its players accounted for several days, often several weeks before camp.”

Instead of raising his hand and declaring himself present, Joakim went flew to France to visit his father. And although I have no doubt Noah hearts his dad something fierce, that wasn’t really the point. Jo’s point was to inform Bulls management that he’s not happy about the “in limbo” status of his contract extension.

The Bulls have reportedly offered Noah a five-year extension worth $57 million. According to Kennedy, Noah wants $70 million over five years but would go as “low” as $65 million “because of his love for the city and organization.”

I guess love isn’t priceless. It’s worth about $5 million. Good to know.

A player showing up to training camp only on time doesn’t exactly rank among the great contract disputes in league history. However, it did lead to a weekend full of questions about Noah’s monetary value. Brendan Jackson of Celtics Hub thinks Noah doesn’t deserve $70 million because last season Boston’s Rajon Rondo signed for a “measely” $55 million. As Jackson put it: “Rajon Rondo is clearly worth more than Joakim Noah and should be paid as such one way or the other. Since Rondo has already signed his contract there is no way Noah should get 70 million.”

Ahem. Let me repeat for emphasis: Ahem. I’ll be very interested to see if that assessment holds up a few years from now when Rondo isn’t passing the ball to Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen and is the centerpiece of a team that can’t cover up for his poor outside shooting and inability to knock down free throws (which seriously affected the Celtics chances the 2010 NBA Finals, by the way).

But I digress.

At Bleacher Report, they’re trying to put a price on Noah’s head relative to other centers with similar Player Efficiency Rating (PER) scores.

At the risk of being dismissive, I’m going to dismiss these calculations. The Rondo versus Noah comparison is apples and oranges, and it misses cogent points. The center-to-center juxtapositions also overlook important contextual matters.

If we’re going to seriously discuss Noah’s comparitive worth, wouldn’t it make more sense to determine his value relative to the Bulls versus other teams? Clearly, Joakim wouldn’t be worth $70 million to Boston GM Danny Ainge, who has Kendrick Perkins, Jermaine O’Neal and Shaq at center. From that perspective, I guess I can see where Celtics Hub is coming from.

But let’s look at how the Bulls have been constructed. Presumably, Chicago’s top two scoring options are going to be Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer. These players also happen to be, potentially, the team’s biggest defensive liabilities. If you’re going to build a team around two brilliant offensive players who struggle to stay in front of their opponents, you’re going to need a big man who is equally brilliant at cleaning up his teammates’ mistakes.

Furthermore, new Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau (unless I am very much mistaken) is going to make defense the foundation of this team. Assuming he follows the formula he worked to near-perfection in Boston, he’ll need a defensive anchor: An energetic and passionate big man who can communicate, rotate, switch and help control the boards. You know, the role Kevin Garnett has played for the Celtics the last three seasons.

If the Bulls lost Noah for some reason, who do you suppose is going to fill those roles? Who’s going to have Rose and Boozer’s backs? Who’s going to anchor Thibodeau’s defensive scheme? Kurt Thomas? Omer Asik? Brian Scalabrine?

Joakim’s PER may be a few points below Rajon Rondo’s. (Although, to be fair, Noah’s PER took a hit when he got injured last season. During the early months, his PER was consistently 20+). Other centers who earn less (or even significantly less) than $14 million per year have a comparable PER.

Sure. I get that.

But what does that mean? Rondo can’t come to Chicago and play center. And there’s no reason to believe that centers with similar PER could do for the Bulls what Noah has already shown he can do.

Ergo: Noah is worth more to the Bulls than he is on the open market.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the Bulls should give in to unreasonable demands. These are negotiations, people. Hasn’t anyone ever bought a new or used car? The car has a sticker price. The salesman says he can make you an even better deal. You state firmly that you can’t pay that and make a counteroffer. The salesman says there’s no way he could go that low and makes a counteroffer of his own. You threaten to walk out of the dealership. The salesman threatens to pull his generous offer. This junk goes back and forth until a price is agreed on, after which you leave the lot with the car you wanted and the salesman earns his paycheck.

If every step of these negotiations made the newspapers and blogs, we’d all feel pretty silly. “Matt McHale wants that car for only %15,000? Is he crazy? I paid $17,000 for the same car and I’m a great negotiator…there’s no way he should pay less for that car than I did. And look at this list of other people who bought the same car. They all paid more than McHale is offering. The salesman should kick him off the lot!”

Man, I’m glad the details of my last car purchase didn’t get any press coverage. But I digress again.

Is Joakim worth $14 million per year? I don’t know. I really don’t. And it’s not for me to decide. The Bulls will decide what they are comfortable paying him. Noah will decide what he’s comfortable making. Mind you, comfort isn’t a hard figure. It’s a range, for both sides. There will be haggling. Most likely, everybody will get a little frustrated. And at some point, Noah is going to sign an extension.

To be honest, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. Going into this summer, the Bulls hoarded cap space in order to radically improve the team. They then went out and used that cap space. It’s gone. Past that, we knew the team was going to have to shell out even more cash to extend Rose and Noah. In other words, the team was going to be over the cap — for years — no matter what they did. Lowballing Noah now isn’t going to benefit the Bulls. It’s not going to free up cap room that will allow them to bring in somebody who’s much better or even as good.

I”m not suggesting the Bulls should spend recklessly. Far from it. Luol Deng’s contract stands as a lasting monument to the dangers of (somewhat) dangerous spending. I just hope both sides can come to a reasonable agreement. I think Noah is worth it.

25 Responses to Joakim Noah: Worth and Consequences

    luvabullnj September 27, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    There’s a way both sides can be happy. The Bulls should offer him the full $70 million Noah is seeking. Albeit over SIX years. That way the Bulls can hold the line on per year salary and Noah can get an additional $13 million in guaranteed money.

    What’s really going on Matt? There is complete silence on the ‘Melo talk and Noah is conveniently in foreign lands on Media day.

    Me thinks “is a blockbuster about to go down?”

  2. Ryan September 27, 2010 at 3:39 pm #

    I hope they can agree on a middle figure – Noah would be a main piece to success come Playoff time. I also hope the Bulls don’t try to disrespect D. Rose and lowball him when the time comes.

    Dpauley23 September 27, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    Alex Kennedy definitely has his information wrong. According to Sam Smith’s article today he says that Noah has worked out very hard and the Bulls told him to take it easy. The Bulls actually told Noah to fly to France as vacation

    mike September 27, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    look i love noah but 70 mil no way sorry the last time we paid for a player like him was wallace that was a mistake….. if thats the money he wants dont be sureprised if he gets traded…

  5. September 27, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

    Split the difference, pay him $63.5 Million for 5 years and move on before this becomes unfortunate or the Bulls do something stupid–like trading him and Deng for Melo.

    Savage September 27, 2010 at 5:45 pm #

    Noah has not come close to proving himself worthy of 70 million over 5 years that is just ridiculous. And I am a big Noah fan. Noah has a career average of 8 points and 8 rebounds 1.26 blocks per game. His first season he played 20 minutes per game second 24 and third 30. He has never made an all-star appearance. He missed 18 games due to injury last year. For him to be asking to get paid so much when big picture he has proven so little is just crazy.

    I am a big fan and think Noah brings a lot to the team. All I am saying is he wants to be paid like an all-star/elite player when he has not proven he is on that level YET. D-Wade is making 14 a year and Noah is no where close to being on D-Wade’s level. If Noah really expects 13 to 14 mill a year I would not do an extension and possibly think about trading him to Denver. Or better yet just let him play out this year give him a qualifying offer and we can match any teams offer for him next year. There is no upside to giving Noah that type of money right now when on the open market if he has a good year he may get offered 10 to 11 million a year. I highly doubt any team will pay 14 million a year for Noah this year or next. I was frustrated to hear this news because Noah fits this Bulls team very well. I guess we will just have to wait to see how things work out.

  7. PTFC September 27, 2010 at 5:58 pm #

    Noah needs to chill out a little bit. I think he is getting confused being an allstar/superstar with being a fan favorite in chicago. All bulls love him greatly but that doesn’t mean you are a superstar talent. Last year in the playoffs, individually, he was a beast (I think one game he had 25-15). But he has to understand you have to beast like that for a little longer amount of time and little more consistently before allstar money starts coming your way.

    It’s like with any job, you got to show you can do it on a high level consistently and not just spurts before you get that raise/promotion.

    Ken September 27, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    Hello, first, let me say I’m a fan of your blog. Thanks for all your good work.

    I actually wrote that piece on Bleacher, and I also agree with you that Noah is extremely valuable to the Bulls and wrote about just that topic here:

    But Noah’s value to the Bulls and his market value are 2 really different things. Just because the Bulls need him more (b/c Omer Asik is the alternative), doesn’t mean the Bulls should pay Noah at an excess price. The market doesn’t value Noah at $70 million over 5 (which is what I was trying to show in that Bleacher article) and so the Bulls would be squandering future finanical flexibility if they did.

    ken September 27, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    Hope this isn’t a duplicate msg. I think my last one didn’t go through.

    I agree with you that Noah is more valuable to the Bulls than other teams that already have multiple back up centers. When Omer Asik is your next best option, you better hold onto Noah for dear life. This is exactly why I argued that the Bulls shouldn’t trade Noah for Carmelo here:

    But just because the Bulls value him more doesn’t mean they should pay him in excess of what the market values him at. I think it’s strange that you belittle this discussion. It’s important. The Bulls financial flexibility is at stake. Just as you say Deng’s contract hampers roster flexibility, a bad deal with Noah will do the same.

    I like Noah as much as anyone. But the Bulls as of right now are not likely to beat the Heat or Lakers (although it’s possible). They will need to make more moves in the future as their team evolves. Being financially prudent now will help them with this later.

    Anyway, thanks for your post. I enjoy your blog very much.

    icicle September 27, 2010 at 8:31 pm #

    Noah, the current player, with the current off and def output capacity, is NOT worth $65mil or $70mil.

    Noah’s potential might be worth $64 or $70 mil, but there is a distinction there.

    So, the problem is how attainable “Noah’s potential” is to Noah. The last year of the contract, the 2010-2011 season, will tell us all.

    As a review, the last 4 free agent extension situations:
    1) Kirk Hinrich. Extension granted. Considered bad decision. Traded away.
    2) Ben Gordon. Extension rejected. Considered good decision. Signed away.
    3) Tyrus Thomas. Extension rejected. Considered good decision. Traded away.
    4) Luol Deng. Extension granted. Considered overly expensive for basketball output. On roster, rumors abound.

    Notice the trend? (“yea but Noah is awesome and does so much… yadda yadda”. shut up.)

    Let Noah play the final year of his contract. Inform him what he needs to do to get a $65-70 mil contract. If he does not, then let the market decide his value.

    Keith September 27, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

    lol i would wait for the new cba and hope they add the franchise tag and use it on him.

    Ken September 27, 2010 at 8:51 pm #

    I kind of agree with that. Noah is asking to be paid based on potential more than actual production. Paying him more than market value would be risky for the Bulls (as you say).

    The irony is that Noah wants to get paid now in fear of the new CBA. But at the same time, he has zero leverage because of it. No way he’s going to get a contract offer as lucrative as this one if the new CBA is as stringent as people expect it to be.

    BoppinBob September 27, 2010 at 10:39 pm #

    If Noah is not happy with the extension offer, he does not have to sign it. When he is a restricted free agent he market value will become clearer, also there will be another season of history to look at. Maybe he ups his production to very solid double/double numbers. I do not think there should be any rush to judgement by either side. I think in light of past production and the intangables Noah has displayed $57 Million over 5 is not an insulting offer. There is time, and it is early in the process. No one should be jumping of any buildings just yet.

    luvabullnj September 27, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    I LOVE Noah’s game and his heart. He is a winner. Savage as usual makes good points and Ken makes an excellent point regarding Bulls future financial flexibility. After reading their comments, I re-read your article. You don’t take a clear stand on what Noah should be paid, however, you don’t think the $57 million the Bulls have offered Noah is a fair price. In your own words Noah would not be worth $70 Mil to the Celtics because they have two O’Neals and a Perkins and the Bulls have a Noah and two nothings. So by going cheap with the backup center, the Bulls now have their backs against the wall and would have to overpay Noah. The Bulls could have and should have picked up Jermaine O’Neal over the summer as an insurance policy for the front line. Failing that they could have picked up their own summer league stand out Samardo Samuels but they did not. But what happens after a season or two when we discover that we can’t get past Dwight Howard’s Magic or the Celtics with their plethora of big men or that Haslem can defend Boozer pretty well but Bosh man handles Noah in the playoffs. Not to mention the combo of Gasol, Bynum and Odom. How will we add that very necessary quality big man if we overpay Noah. And if in two or three years Noah does prove himself to be right piece to get the Bulls past the aforementioned teams, well he can be rewarded with the next contract. While Noah works very hard and plays with a lot of heart, he is at best the 4th or 5th best center in the Eastern conference behind Howard, Bogut, Lopez and arguably Horford.
    If it is all about the team and winning championships, then sign the contract and let’s play ball.

    Matt McHale September 27, 2010 at 11:03 pm #

    “What’s really going on Matt? There is complete silence on the ‘Melo talk and Noah is conveniently in foreign lands on Media day.”

    Heh. Fortunately (or, depending on your outlook, unfortunately) that’s just a coincidence. The Nuggets are simply hoping ‘Melo backs down…they haven’t received a good enough offer to part with him yet.

    “After reading their comments, I re-read your article. You don’t take a clear stand on what Noah should be paid, however, you don’t think the $57 million the Bulls have offered Noah is a fair price.”

    Truth be told, I think the $57 million is probably a fair price. However, clearly Noah doesn’t think so. Frankly, I don’t think $70 million is fair to the Bulls. $65 million would be pushing it. I think that somewhere between $60-62 million would be a fair compromise.

    The unfortunate thing, as I stated in the post, is that the haggling aspect of contract negotiations becomes so public. It makes it either appear the organization doesn’t properly appreciate the player or that the player isn’t appropriately loyal to the organization. Or both.

    My take: Noah is going to come down (significantly) from the $70 million figure. The Bulls will budge (perhaps only slightly) from the $57 million figure. Noah will sign the extension by October 31, both sides will be happy, and we will all be able to focus on the season.

    Brooklyn Bulls September 28, 2010 at 1:32 am #

    1st, Noah has been my 2nd favorite Bull since my original fave bull (scottie) retired. however this salary demand is riduiculous. He is the most valuable ROLE player there is in the nba. But no person avg 11 ppg should demand 14 mill per year. The # of millions u receive should never exceed the # of points u place on the scoreboard. im actually starting 2 reconsider my stance that jono is untouchable in this melo-drama. i c this ending badly 4 us

    Brooklyn Bulls September 28, 2010 at 1:41 am #

    Meant 2 say noah’s my 2nd favorite since my original SECOND fave….evry1 nows jordan is king…..However i propose a new value system. The # of millions a player receives every year should be 5 digits less than their ppg. i.e. a player scoring 19 ppg receives 14 mill. a player scoring 10ppg – 5 mill…. 25ppg 20 mill etc

  18. Billiam September 28, 2010 at 6:09 am #

    Noah’s not worth $14 million per and it seems silly to me that you feel to believe he is. I think he’s a very good player, and I want him on the Bulls for a long time, but $14 million per would make him one of the highest paid players in the league. He has not earned that type of value at this point.

    MV September 28, 2010 at 9:25 am #

    @ 17
    this suggestion is nonsense. noah is a very defensive minded and skilled play. how can somebody think, ppg are the one and only stat? put points, rebounds, assists and maybe steals and blocks together and then we can talk …
    in my opinion the $60-65 mill are reasonable. noah and rose were the different makers last year. don`t look to much on noah`s numbers. he only played about 30min a game and was leading the rebound-battle quite a long time that season if you compare his potential against Mr. superman. but his main-value can not be counted in raw numbers, as always by very good defensive players with heart, hustle and passion. you have to look very carefully to find someone like him in the NBA today.

    and an other thing is the hole carmelo trade nonsense. deng has proved himself in a lot off years for the bulls. every one knows what he brings to the table an you can rely on this. melo on the other hand is new in every aspect. we know how he produced for the nuggets in a specific surrounding. but the bulls are different. furthermore needs this bulls-team a proven core, that knows and trusts eachother. rose, noah and deng (and taj) worked well in the past but nobody knows how it will work with the new players and coach. why put some more uncertainty in the game, wen the possible reward is very risky and not proven(defensive minded player vs offensive minded player)?
    give this team a chance to play and prove themselfes.


  20. LOS LOBOS September 28, 2010 at 10:39 am #

    I like everyones enthusiasm for the new look Bulls but my point remains the same.

    Noah is the only true center that we have and we will pay in the playoffs if we don’t address that position with better options than K. Thomas & O. Asik, not to mention we never addressed losing the scoring ability of B. Gordon.

    Yes we have a better team, but not a championship team.

    luvabullnj September 28, 2010 at 3:16 pm #

    Thanks for clarifying. I agree, $60-$62 mil would be a fair price. Hope it gets done sooner rather than later.

    Brooklyn Bulls September 28, 2010 at 5:11 pm #

    Im fully aware of the limitations of judging a player strictly on stats. ive been preaching noah’s intangibles and dedication 2 the team all summer in defense of the bulls’ refusal 2 include him in the melo trade….this is a matter of frustration over this insane salary demand for a role player, regardless how valuable that role player is. but if ur gonna ask for 70 mill, yes your stats need to reflect that value

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  1. Some good news: Joakim Noah has been extended » By The Horns - October 4, 2010

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