The Case for Joakim Noah as All-NBA First Team Center

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The Case for Joakim Noah as All-NBA First Team Center
USA Today

Joakim Noah has been regarded for years as a nice piece to an NBA rotation, but his production during this season is warranting his place on the All-NBA first team.

Noah has made major strides throughout his basketball journey. From his freshman year at the University of Florida, when he played less than 10 minutes per game, to now, he has blossomed in every aspect of his game.

The Chicago Bulls' center is more than a deserving All-Star, which has happened the past couple campaigns. His game has added so many layers that he should be on the first-team list alongside the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

Haters will highlight how limited Noah's offensive repertoire is, touching on his lack of post moves and inability to score with the game on the line.

However, during 2013-14 Noah has provided an overwhelming amount of evidence that validates his worth. While he may lack flashy scoring prowess, he more than makes up for it with seemingly every intangible.

Let's break down the chief reasons why Noah should crack the All-NBA first team.

 

Numbers

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Numbers say something, and Noah's digits are eye-popping. This is especially the case after the All-Star break.

Per NBA.com/Stats, Noah is averaging 14.1 PPG (55.6 percent from the field), 10.4 RPG, 7.0 APG, 2.0 BPG and 1.2 SPG since the All-Star break.

These statistics across the board, particularly in the assist column, are unheard of for a center. For the whole season, he's tallying 12.4 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.5 BPG and 1.1 SPG, which is still downright impressive.

The numbers he's compiling are so rare. It magnifies how many ways Noah impacts a game. Offensively, he can score off slashes to the rim, and Chicago runs much of its attack through him due to his distributing skills.

He's currently dishing the rock like Chris Webber, a notoriously skilled passing big man who only once averaged more than five assists per outing.

His rebounding figures are also superb, as he ranks sixth in the league in RPG. His block and steal marks also signal his efforts on the defensive end.

What Noah's doing is remarkably unique. He's often deemed a "hustle player" who thrives off intensity and defense, which is true but he's so much more than that. These numbers convey Noah's undeniable all-around worth.

 

The Little Things

Gary Dineen/Getty Images

Sometimes statistics miss the intangibles that fail to show up on the stat sheet. Noah's production is witnessed in both statistics and through every little thing he provides.

His help-side defense, constant energy, versatility in guarding any position, contagious enthusiasm, keen awareness in defending the pick-and-roll, offensive fearlessness, relentlessness on the glass and the ability to embody everything coach Tom Thibodeau preaches are all examples of the value he supplies.

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

These are attributes that cannot necessarily be quantified, yet they're so influential. The fact the Bulls carry a 3.5 plus/minus when he's on the floor compared to a -3.4 plus/minus when he's on the bench, per NBA.com/Stats, captures his importance.

Specifically, Noah is boasting an 8.6 plus/minus since the All-Star break, revealing good things have been happening when Noah's on the hardwood.

The little things lead to the big things in basketball. The team that embraces this mentality typically finds itself generating its fair share of wins, even beating squads it shouldn't on occasion.

This is what the overachieving Bulls are all about, and Noah's at the core of this identity.

 

A Winner

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Noah has the statistics on his side, as well as the little things he constantly showcases, but perhaps most important is his winning attitude that's always battling through adversity.

Noah's winning ways were on display during his time at Florida, when he won two national championships. While he has yet to win a ring in the NBA, nobody can rightfully argue he's not a championship-caliber player.

His persona and competitive style breed winning. It's in his DNA, evidenced by his mental toughness that's always seeking to overcome. He has specifically found a way to rise above a plethora of hurdles during the past few seasons.

Derrick Rose's injuries have featured lingering disappointment, but Noah has kept competing.

The banged-up Bulls journeyed to Brooklyn for a Game 7 vs. the Nets in last year's playoffs, and with their backs against the wall, Noah dominated and sparked the victory.

Luol Deng's trade provoked strong emotions within Noah, but he has chosen to keep fighting.  

This is who he is. He's a winner, a true competitor. The Bulls currently sit at 37-29 (keep in mind they started 9-16), without Rose and now Deng. They have a glaring void in their offense when it comes to scoring, yet they keep grinding out wins because of defense and crafty offensive schemes.

And Noah's always in the middle of everything. Where would they be without him?  

John Bazemore/Associated Press

You can't say enough about Noah's significance to the Bulls. He's piecing together a historic season, and he should be rightfully rewarded. 

James and Durant are shoo-ins for the first team, and Stephen Curry is also deserving due to his beastly output. This leaves three spots for Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard and Noah. One of the aforementioned Los Angeles Clippers should snag a spot, and then it's down to Howard and Noah for the center position.

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

While Howard is averaging more points and rebounds (18.6 PPG, 12.3 RPG), he has not been as well-rounded in terms of distributing and unceasing defensive effort and effectiveness.

Plus, Noah posted a near triple-double in their recent matchup, while Howard struggled, scoring just 12 points and racking up a hefty seven turnovers.

Please grasp that I'm not vaulting Noah as the indisputable better player between the two, but simply arguing that Noah's been a more productive center during 2013-14 than Howard. Take Noah off the Bulls and who knows how ugly their season would be. Take Howard off the Houston Rockets and they're likely still a playoff team.

Noah should garner the honor over Howard because of what he's accomplished on some many levels, not to mention his incalculable value to the Bulls' franchise.

Noah has earned his place as an All-NBA first team center. He's amidst a special stretch, and he should receive the recognition he deserves.

 

Haddon Anderson is a Chicago Bulls Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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