Chicago Bulls All-Star Joakim Noah put himself in truly elite company by winning the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award, joining Michael Jordan (1987-88) as only the second player in franchise history to earn the honor.
The 29-year-old veteran anchored head coach Tom Thibodeau’s second-ranked Bulls defense. Chicago surrendered just 97.8 points per 100 possessions during the 2013-14 regular season, per ESPN. Only the Indiana Pacers—96.7 points per 100 possessions—were better on the defensive end of the court.
Noah’s defensive impact was off the charts for the Bulls. The eccentric center held opponents to 46.8 percent shooting at the rim and recorded 121 blocks—ninth-best in the Association, according to NBA.com.
He also held opponents to a player efficiency rating of 16.7 and finished the campaign with a net rating of plus-7.2, according to 82games.com. In other words, Chicago was 7.2 points better per 100 possessions when Noah was on the court versus when he was on the bench.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Noah’s defensive game, however, is his ability to guard multiple positions as a big man. For instance, check out this sequence during an interview with his father, Yannick Noah, from earlier this year:
Noah gets switched off defensively into a one-on-one situation against LeBron James. Despite LBJ being a matchup nightmare for nearly every NBA player, the former Florida Gator stood his ground and forced a contested shot that led to a fast break on offense.
Those hustle plays define what Noah is all about.
During his own DPOY campaign in 1987-88, MJ was an absolute monster on the defensive end. He finished with 131 blocks (1.6 per game—a career high) to accompany a league-leading 259 steals (3.2 per game—also a career high), according to Basketball-Reference.com.
That’s not a misprint. Jordan actually finished the 1987-88 season with 10 more blocks than Noah did this year despite being five inches shorter and playing primarily at the shooting guard spot. If that doesn’t speak to MJ’s absurd talent level, I don’t know what does.
Noah was named an NBA All-Defensive First Team member in 2013 and an All-Defensive Second Team member in 2011. Now he can add 2014 Defensive Player of the Year to his already sterling resume.