Name: Joakim Noah (pronounced JO-a-kim)
Weight: 232 pounds
Birth Date: February 25, 1985 (24 years old)
Birth Place: New York, NY
Nicknames: Dr. No, Jo, Jo-No, Noah Kim-Joa, The Joker
Drafted: 2007, 1st Round, 9th overall by Chicago
Experience: 2 seasons
Previous teams: None
Contract: $2.4 million in 2009-10, $3.1 million in 2010-11 (team option)
Expect: Rebounding, blocked shots, crazy energy, crazier hair
Don’t expect: Much scoring
Noah’s offense is extremely limited, which probably explains why his career high in points (19) is less than his career high in rebounds (20). Sure, Noah led the Bulls in Effective Field Goal Percentage last season (.556), but almost all of his scoring comes of layups, dunks and putbacks. According to 82games.com, 94 percent of his field goal attempts were inside (where he had an eFG% of .577). Only six percent of his attempts were jump shots (on which he had an eFG% of .227). So, unlike some Bulls players — coughTyrusThomascough! — at least Noah knows his limitations.
Last season, 80 percent of his dunks and nearly 60 percent of his inside shots were assisted, so it’s pretty obvious that Noah doesn’t generally look to create his own offense. He’s almost strictly a finisher. Oddly enough, despite an increase in MPG (from 20.7 to 24.2), Noah’s per-36-minutes scoring average actually dropped from 11.5 his rookie season to 10.0 last year. There were times during the 2008-09 campaign when you could tell that he was hesitant to shoot the ball. If the Bulls are going to succeed this season — during which they have to replace Ben Gordon’s 20 PPG — Noah is going to have to trust his offense. Which also means he’ll have to actually develop some.
There are some rumors that Noah has spent significant time this summer adding strength, working on his post game and improving his lower body mechanics and overall balance. Let’s hope those rumors prove true. I think his game could really blossom if he added a few go-to scoring moves. He already does a great job running out in transition.
Beside the scoring issue, Noah can be a crafty passer when he actually touches the ball. He’s also a demon on the offensive glass. Last season, Noah ranked 2nd in the NBA in Offensive Rebounds Per 48 Minutes (6.0). Offensive rebounding is all about desire and effort, and Noah certainly doesn’t lack in those departments. He’s also a willing and able screener.
What Noah lacks in offensive proficiency he makes up for in defensive intensity. While it’s true that bigger, stronger post players (like Shaq or even Al Jefferson) can usually outmuscle him down low, he’s pretty accomplished in most other areas. His transition defense is fantastic, he can pick up smaller, quicker players on switches, and he rotates extremely well. He can even press and trap when asked to do so, mostly due to his natural athleticism and (more importantly) his willingness to scramble all over the floor.
Last season, Noah ranked 15th in the NBA in Blocks Per Game (1.38) and 13th in Blocks Per 48 Minutes (2.72). With more minutes, I believe he could easily rank in the top 10, maybe even the top five. Same with rebounding. Noah feasts on the defensive glass, which is why last season he ranked 7th in the NBA in Defensive Rebounds Per 48 Minutes (11.3).
Noah has true passion a real thrill for competition. He almost always plays at a frenetic, high-energy pace and he would walk face-first through a brick wall to win. You want someone like that on your team. His energy, enthusiasm and sheer desire more than make up for his limited offensive skill set. (Although I’m still hoping that skill set expands a little.)
Noah is everything you want in a teammate: talented, passionate, driven and unselfish. Unless something truly amazing (and very surprising) happens, he’ll probably never be much of a scorer. However, he can still be a big-time game-changer with his offensive rebounding and his defense.
What’s his ceiling? I can see Noah becoming Ben Wallace 2.0. And I’m not talking about the washed-up Wallace from his Chicago days. I mean the in-his-prime Big Ben who in 2004 stymied Shaq and helped the Detroit Pistons upset the Lakers in the NBA Finals. I see no reason why Noah couldn’t become everything Wallace was back then…and maybe a little bit more.
Here’s what Joakim Noah does: