Defensive Usage: 9.2
Defensive PPP: .81
Net DRtg: -5.2
Speed and Athleticism: 18.0
Joakim Noah must be the most awkwardly athletic person in the history of the world. At times, he looks like Bambi trying to ice-skate. He doesn't look smooth by any stretch, with arms and legs seemingly flailing everywhere in some kind of disorganized fashion.
But you can't argue with the results. He is probably the one player in the NBA, other than LeBron James, who can guard virtually anyone in the league.
Noah will step out and defend elite point guards, shooting guards and small forwards—and do so with impressive effectiveness. He gives up just .79 points per play in isolation, with the players he's guarded ranging from speedy guards like Kyle Lowry, Dwyane Wade and Monta Ellis, to small forwards like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, to big men like Brook Lopez.
He'll step out to the perimeter and challenge shooters. He'll stay at home and guard the post. He'll guard whatever happens to be the spot where he's most needed on the court at any given moment.
His versatility is a direct result of that awkward athleticism.
Size and Strength: 19.1
Once, strength was a liability for Noah. He was easily pushed off the block by bigger centers. He's added considerable bulk by hitting the weight room over the last few summers, and the result has paid off. He's no longer so easy to push around.
In fact, the .73 points per play he gives up on post-up plays is downright impressive.
He's still not as strong as players like Roy Hibbert or Dwight Howard, but he's able to hold his own against them.
For example, before 2012, Howard averaged 19.7 points on .611 shooting against Noah, but over the last two seasons, that number has fallen to 12 points on .526 shooting. Noah has gotten stronger in the post, and his Synergy numbers reflect that.
Noah plays so hard that it literally aggravates fans of opposing teams. He is like a younger version of Kevin Garnett, playing with controlled ferocity and desire to win.
He played that hard for the most minutes of any center in the game, and that might not even be the whole story. According to the new LLC tracking technology, Noah ran 2.74 miles per game (account required), which is the most of any player in the league—not just any center—any player.
Oh yeah, and he did all that in French shoes and plantar fasciitis.
Apparently, he'd rather suffer the agony of de-feet than the agony of defeat (badump).
Basketball Intelligence: 18.5
Also, similar to Garnett, Noah is the vocal leader of his team on defense. He captains the Bulls in a similar way, coaching up his teammates, not just in terms of communicating where they need to be, but in terms of helping them to get their heads and hearts into the game.
On more than one occasion, he gave power forward Carlos Boozer a stern "talking-to" that issued in an upgrade in play shortly thereafter.
Noah captains the most complex system in the NBA, and he does so well. He has one advantage in that. He has help from his teammate, Luol Deng, so he doesn't have to carry that burden to the same degree as some of the other bigs.
The Chicago Bulls were better by 5.2 points with Noah on the court, which is impressive enough, but it's an even more remarkable achievement when you consider the fact that, unlike the other elite defensive centers, Noah doesn't spend the bulk of his time playing with his teams' other elite defensive players.
When the Bulls had their best five defenders on the court, led by Noah, along with Taj Gibson, Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich, they gave up a ridiculously low 87.7 points per 100 possessions. Sadly, they played just 55 minutes together.
In fact, Noah played less than 500 minutes with Gibson and Butler together, whom he gave up just 98.6 points per 100 possessions with. That's compared to the 1,577 minutes he spent with the far more defensively challenged Carlos Boozer and Marco Belinelli, and when he was with them, the Bulls surrendered 107.2 points.
Yet, in spite of the fact that he spent nearly 75 percent of his time with the Bulls' worst defenders, the team was better with him on the court, and he is still, statistically speaking, the best defensive center in the NBA, with the league's best WAM.
That he could come up with the best numbers statistically, when he's at a disadvantage, says a lot about the impact of his help defense.