Joakim Noah vs. Omer Asik: Who Should the Chicago Bulls Start at Center?

Al Rieger@Al RiegerCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2012

Joakim Noah vs. Omer Asik: Who Should the Chicago Bulls Start at Center?

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    At 38-10, Chicago Bulls centers Joakim Noah and Omer Asik have little to complain about.

    Both players have stepped up and deserve props for their total devotion to coach Tom Thibodeau's defensive game plan.

    Both players have earned their stay, as Bulls management opted to keep their big men instead of make a trade before the deadline. So which player should be on the "Bench Mob" and which should get to hear his name among Derrick Rose's in the pregame introductions?

    The answer is not so easy. 

Omer Asik

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    Asik is the unsung hero on the Bulls.

    Noah may get more of the praise, but Asik does his job honorably. He's like a humble blacksmith, creating a wall of steel and defending the paint like it's being attacked by oncoming artillery.  

    Sure, the Bulls knew they were getting a shot-blocker, as he demonstrated in the Euroleague with two blocks per game. However, Asik has turned out to be more than just a shot-blocker.  

    Asik has an intimidating presence that changes the momentum in games. His defensive intuition is phenomenal; he has a great feel for where the ball-handler is trying to go.

    If he got the minutes Noah has, Asik would likely score close to Noah's measly 10 points per game, and would likely tally just as much blocks, rebounds, and steals.

Joakim Noah

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    Noah got off to a slow start but has come into form as of late. 

    In the last 10 games, Noah has averaged a double-double, 3.4 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.2 steals. 

    Noah is a fan favorite, and his primal screams resonate with Bulls fans. His offensive game is more established than Asik's and he's always been the clear-cut starter. But maybe his infectious energy is better suited coming off the bench to give the Bulls a boost in times of trouble.  

Decision: Joakim Noah

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    This isn't as easy a decision as most think. Consider these stats.

    Noah - 10 points, 10 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, .8 steals per game in 31 minutes 
    Asik - 3.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, .9 blocks, .5 steals per game in 14 minutes

    His productivity, given his minutes, proves that if given more court time Asik would put up similar points, rebounds, more blocks and more steals.

    On any other team except for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic, Asik could be a starter. He could start for the Bulls too, and not much would change.

    However, Joakim Noah is the better starter for one reason: He has a higher chance of getting hot.

    Asik has shown he can get into a rhythm offensively, but Noah is the only center in the NBA who can lead a fast break and finish at the rim—a skill big men usually don't have. 

    Noah has helped shape this young team's identity and deserves the start. He's tough, high-strung and emotional. He gets everyone, including me, fired up.