Joakim Noah Builds Defensive Player of the Year Case with Monster Triple-Double

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 1, 2013

Joakim Noah built the first All-Star campaign of his six-year NBA career on the strength of his versatility.

With the Chicago Bulls missing former MVP point guard Derrick Rose since he tore his ACL in Game 1 of the opening round of the 2012 playoffs, Noah has been needed to fill box scores like never before.

Playing in front of a national audience on TNT's Thursday night showcase against the Philadelphia 76ers, the big man put forth a stat sheet-stuffing effort rarely seen in the sport's history.

Noah demoralized the Philly frontcourt with 23 points, 21 rebounds and 11 blocked shots in Chicago's 93-82 win.

Those are numbers that didn't need a lot of glowing analysis. They more or less spoke for themselves:

If you cut his gaudy glasswork and point production in half, it would still be one of the most impressive defensive efforts in the NBA this season:

But he did score all 23 of those points on a hyper-efficient 8-of-12 shooting display from the field. And he did bully his way to each one of those 21 rebounds, corralling eight of them on the offensive end.

In doing so, he thrust himself into some of the most elite company a post player could ever join:

The scoring and rebounding numbers weren't quite season highs. In fact, there's a chance this could have actually been his second strongest showing of the season. Back on Dec. 7, he erupted for 30 points and 23 rebounds in a win over the Detroit Pistons.

Still, the fact that that was only his sixth game with 20-plus points this season had some dumbfounded over his explosive game:

If he's not the Defensive Player of the Year at this point, then maybe the league should rethink its voting criteria:

He's the fourth-best rebounder in the game (11.4 per game) and the fifth-best shot-blocker (2.2 per game). He and Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith are the only players among the league's top 25 swat artists averaging at least 1.3 steals per game.

He's the vocal leader of the league's third stingiest team (91.3 points allowed per game). Playing alongside the more refined Carlos Boozer, Noah's tasked with stopping the strongest post player on the opposition. He has the quickness to keep pace with the smaller, perimeter-oriented bigs popping up around the league, and the strength to keep the traditional bruisers from establishing strong post position.

He's certainly answered the call in that regard and somehow still found time to deter driving guards or erase the shot attempts from players that do penetrate all the way to the basket.

And let's face it, it's not as if he's afforded the luxury of taking off any offensive plays. With Rose out of the equation, Noah's been one of the best setup men the Bulls have on the roster. He's the only center averaging at least four assists per game, and his 4.2 dimes have him tied for 36th among all players regardless of position.

And he's managing all of this while logging some of the heaviest minutes in the league. He's one of only 11 players averaging at least 38 minutes per game and the only center among that group.

Naturally, he played a game-high 45 minutes on Thursday night. And he only seemed to get stronger as the night went on:

Noah's not the transcendent superstar player needed to replace a player of Rose's caliber.

But he's an absolute lock for the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year award.