Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
With Derrick Rose sidelined, Joakim Noah is becoming the face of the Chicago Bulls.
It's a bold statement to make, but Noah's recent play has been extraordinary.
He's put up 14.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game since the break, but has also dished out 7.0 assists per game. Noah's playmaking and ball-handling were once his most underrated skills, but have been on full display over the past few weeks.
His assist-per-game average jumped to 7.9 during the month of March, where Noah has dropped two triple-doubles and come close to four in the past two games (coming just short with nine and eight assists, respectively).
His passion, intensity and competitiveness have become a staple of this Bulls team, which he's led to a 10-4 record since the All-Star break. Victories over Dallas, Miami and San Antonio have been concretely based on Chicago's spectacular defense, but Noah's leadership at the helm has piqued MVP consideration.
He wouldn't let that be the case though, as he confirmed: "We have one MVP, and that’s Derrick Rose," per Chuck Swirsky of Bulls.com.
He's drawn effulgent praise, including the aforementioned MVP chants and even a nod from Rockets head coach Kevin McHale, per ESPN.com, who said:
He should be defensive player of the year. He's done a great job with these guys. They've been winning a lot just on his energy and effort, his kind of determination and toughness. Those are all qualities everybody appreciates.
Davis' play could have easily gotten him the top spot, but Noah's spirit and desire to win has taken over Chicago basketball and the NBA. All the players listed have exceeded expectations or played better than usual, but Noah has become bigger than basketball since All-Star weekend.
Whether it's been his defense, hustle, rebounding or passing, Noah has outplayed everyone in every category. His playmaking is rarely seen from someone at his size or position, but it's been on full display.
The Bulls will be a total menace in the postseason, and that can be directly attributed to Noah, with the effect he's had on his team and his all-around brilliance in the season's second half.