What Joakim Noah Must Do to Propel Chicago Bulls to Eastern Conference Finals
The All-Star big man is having the best season of his professional career, averaging career highs in various categories.
It will be a major challenge for the Bulls to reach the conference finals, where they landed two years ago and should’ve made it to last season if it wasn’t for Derrick Rose’s devastating ACL injury.
Chicago possesses the tools to make a deep run in the playoffs. Their lineup includes a former MVP point guard in Rose (if he returns this season), as well as 2013 All-Star Luol Deng and quality power forward Carlos Boozer.
And, of course, Tom Thibodeau is one of the top coaches in all of basketball. However, the Bulls can’t make it far without Noah’s contributions on both ends of the floor.
Contribute in the Scoring Department
Nobody considers Joakim Noah an elite scorer. The former Florida Gator isn’t capable of putting up 25 points a night; however, he is a decent scorer nonetheless. He’s currently averaging a career-high 12 points per contest.
Noah has reached the 20-point mark seven times this season, including a career-best 30 versus the Detroit Pistons back in December.
He possesses a solid mid-range jumper and has the ability to take it strong to the hoop for a thunderous dunk.
The Bulls are an offensively-challenged ball club to say the least, even with a healthy Derrick Rose in the lineup. They’ll need every bucket they can get from Noah in order to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
Serve as a "Point Center"
Noah’s assist total of 255 is second on the Bulls behind point guard Nate Robinson.
With Derrick Rose (Chicago’s top playmaker) sidelined with a knee injury, Noah has emerged as a point center for the team.
He has a pair of 10-assist games under his belt this season, with one of the those performances being a triple-double versus the Boston Celtics.
He possesses the ability to lead the break and find his teammates, as well as pass from the high post.
Noah’s spectacular passing can help take pressure off Rose during the postseason so the superstar guard can focus more on scoring.
Rebound at a High Level
You can count on Noah to rebound the basketball, that’s for sure. He’s the ultimate glass-cleaner.
His 11.5 boards per game is tops on the Bulls and ranks fourth in the NBA.
Thus far this season, Noah has put together 13 games in which he recorded at least 15 rebounds. He has reached the 20-rebound mark twice.
Crashing the boards help teams win, as it eliminates second-chance points for opposing teams.
Noah must continue to grab every board in sight to propel the Bulls to a possible matchup with the Miami Heat.
Play Stellar Defense
Noah is one of the NBA’s better defenders, as he’s perhaps the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year.
He ranks sixth in the league in blocks per game with 2.3 and averages a respectable 1.2 steals.
And according to basketballreference.com, Noah ranks second in win shares with 4.7 and his defensive rating of 97.9 is seventh best.
The Bulls are one of the top defensive squads in the entire NBA, with Noah serving as the anchor. His presence in the paint simply forces opponents to think twice before driving the lane.
He’s a shot-blocking machine, which will only help Chicago in the playoffs.
Continue to Be the Emotional Leader
Noah wears his emotions on his sleeve. He’s definitely not associated with words like "quiet," "shy" and "laid back."
You’ll often hear him yelling and screaming following a play, hyping up his teammates as well as the United Center crowd.
The Bulls feed off Noah’s energy on a nightly basis, which gives the team a better chance to win ball games.
Chicago desperately needs Noah to serve as an emotional leader if they want to make it all the way to the third round of the postseason.