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Why Joakim Noah Must Be Embraced as an Elite NBA Center

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Why Joakim Noah Must Be Embraced as an Elite NBA Center
Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE

It's been a long time coming for Joakim Noah.

For more than five years, the Chicago Bulls have been in possession of a solid, yet hardly prolific center in Noah.

That's all about to change.

Why? 

Because he's suddenly become the face of the Derrick Rose-less Bulls.

Chicago is off to a respectable start to the season. They won their first two games of the season—for the first time since the 2002-2003 campaign—proving in the process there is a team worth watching without Rose.

At the same time, however, the team has hardly thrived. They're shooting a combined 25 percent from behind the arc and suffered a loss at the hands of the Anthony Davis- and Eric Gordon-less New Orleans Hornets.

Throw in a handful of underwhelming performances from core guys Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng, and you have a team that could be left searching for an identity.

Except the Bulls aren't because of Noah.

Noah, not Boozer or Deng has carried the Bulls.

At a time when the team needed them most, Boozer and Deng have been nearly nowhere to be found.

Boozer is averaging a career low in minutes per game and currently playing his way toward the amnesty wire this summer, while Deng continues to struggle in all facets of the offense, shooting just 38.9 percent from the field and 11.1 percent from behind the rainbow.

Those numbers are potentially crippling for a team down its primary pillar. Luckily for the second and third in command, though, other players have stepped up. None more so than Noah.

While he's always been a defensive stud, he's lacked that offensive prowess that would render him a two-way threat. That alone has kept him from averaging any more than 32.8 minutes per contest over the course of his career, let alone from being considered an elite big man.

However, such one dimensionality appears to be a notion of the past.

Chicago's big man is currently leading the team in points, rebounds and steals per game. It's also worth noting that if he keeps scoring at a pace of 14.7 points per contest, he'll set a career mark in that department as well.

Sure, his offensive role is bound to diminish upon Rose's return, but for now he's been the most consistent two-way player the Bulls have.

Talk about a complete transformation.

A complete look at what Noah has done for the Bulls this season so far.

Noah may not be the most explosive of centers, and he certainly isn't the most athletic of them either, but he's breached the realm of two-way versatility. He's something more than a defensive specialist that poses a headache on the offensive end.

Where does Noah rank amongst the NBA's best centers?

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For years we've watched him foil even the greatest of rim-rockers plans, but now we have the pleasure of watching him evolve on the other side of the ball, watching as he runs the floor with intent to score.

It's a Noah we aren't used to, but it's one who began to percolate during the playoffs last season when he led the Bulls in scoring after Rose tore his ACL.

And that's important—it's all important. 

Many have buried him beneath the depths of the Association's other big men—including yours truly—but his rise to prominence is now undeniable.

Because the defensive-oriented Noah was good, yet he had limits.

The offensively capable, franchise carrying Noah, however?

He's a star.

 

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