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Joakim Noah is the Bulls most pivotal player entering the 2012-13 NBA season because of his presence in the paint. Without Omer Asik, Noah becomes a much important piece to the Bulls puzzle.
Noah is an outstanding defensive center, but he was bailed out by the defensive specialist Asik, who finished the job in plenty of games last season. Noah will not have that luxury this year, and the Bulls need Noah to patrol the paint every night for the team to remain among the top defensive units in the NBA.
The backup center this year is Nazr Mohammed, but he will merely be there to give Noah a break. The Bulls won't depend on him in the fourth quarter like they did with Asik the past two seasons.
Without Derrick Rose, expect the Bulls to play in plenty of close, low-scoring affairs this season. Noah will be taxed on the defensive end of the floor almost every game, but it is essential that he keeps enough in the tank to protect the rim the closing minutes of contests.
Noah will also have to play an increased role on offense. He added a left-handed running hook to his arsenal last year. It will be interesting to see what kind of post moves Noah added this offseason.
Noah has the potential to put up a double-double every night. If he gives the Bulls this kind of production, don't be surprised if you see Noah in Houston next February for the NBA All-Star Game.