Joakim Noah Is Giving Hybrid Center a Whole New Definition

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Joakim Noah Is Giving Hybrid Center a Whole New Definition
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago BullsJoakim Noah is the ultimate hybrid center.

He’s sort of a cross between Marcus Camby, due to his stellar rebounding and defense, and Boris Diaw, due to his midrange game/passing ability.

Camby was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year back in 2007. Now this season, Noah is perhaps the frontrunner to win the award. However, he’s going to have to beat out other candidate’s like the San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan, the Memphis Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol and the Indiana Pacers’ Roy Hibbert.

Noah is currently averaging 11.4 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.3 steals per game, all career highs. In addition, he’s second in the league in win shares (4.5) and fifth in defensive rating (96.7).

The Bulls are playing stellar D this season, holding opponents to just 91.2 points per game. And Noah, an All-Star for the first time this year, is one of the main reasons for that. He’s also why Chicago owns a winning record without Derrick Rose, who has been sidelined due to a knee injury.       

Noah is simply a rebounding machine. He’s leading the Bulls in that department and ranks fourth in the league.    

So far this season, he has grabbed at least 15 boards 13 times, including a career-high 23 versus the Detroit Pistons. In that Detroit game, Noah looked like a taller version of Dennis Rodman, as he collected almost every rebound in sight. The crazy thing about that game, though, is that he also managed to score a whopping 30 points.            

Noah is a fantastic shot-blocker as well. The Florida product swatted six shots against the Los Angeles Lakers in January, his biggest total of the season at the time. Then recently versus the Philadelphia 76ers, he produced a career-best 11 blocks, part of a triple-double which also included 23 points and 21 rebounds.

23 points, 21 rebounds and 11 blocks in one game? Now that’s a legendary stat line to say the least. And oh yeah, he also collected three steals and shot 67 percent from the field in that game. Noah is the first player in NBA history to record at least 20 points, 20 boards and 10 blocks while shooting over 65 percent.

Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell may have accomplished the feat. However, blocked shots weren’t an official stat back when those guys were dominating the hardwood.

Noah is one of only six players in league history to have a 20-point, 20-rebound and 10-block triple-double. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elvin Hayes, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shawn Bradley (believe it or not) and Shaquille O’Neal are the other five.

Noah has developed a reliable midrange jumper. It isn’t the prettiest shot by any stretch of the imagination, but reliable nonetheless. According to Hoopdata.com, Noah is shooting 54.5 percent from 10-15 feet away from the basket. That’s much better than his 21.7 percent from that distance last season.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of Noah’s game is his playmaking ability. He’s averaging an astounding 4.2 assists per contest for the Bulls this season. While that stat wouldn’t be impressive for a 6’2” starting point guard, it’s certainly impressive for a 6’11” center.

Noah has accepted the rare “point center” role with Rose—Chicago’s best facilitator—out of the lineup. The sixth-year pro often gets his teammates involved due to his remarkable ability to pass out of the high post.

Check out Noah’s laser pass to Taj Gibson, who stuffs it home versus the Minnesota Timberwolves.   

Back in December, Noah joked about his role (via ESPN).

"I always tell people I'm a point-center anyway. I always feel like I can pass the ball. I feel more comfortable with the offense and we have a lot of people who can score the ball in different ways."

Noah has produced a pair of 10-assist games this season—one against the Boston Celtics in December (a triple-double) and the other against the Washington Wizards in January.     

The chart below indicates that Noah’s assist average has improved dramatically from past years.

Noah isn’t quite the best center in the game today, as that honor goes to the Lakers’ Dwight Howard. Yet, he just might be the top all-around center in the Association.

There really isn’t much that he can’t do on the court. He can rebound, swat shots in the stands, score, shoot, pass, handle the rock and take it coast to coast. And don’t be surprised if he adds an unstoppable three-point shot to his repertoire in the near future

No doubt about it, Jo is the perfect example of a hybrid center.       

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