Joakim Noah: How Much Is the Chicago Bulls Center Really Worth?

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Joakim Noah: How Much Is the Chicago Bulls Center Really Worth?
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Chicagoans fresh off the Carmelo Anthony versus Joakim Noah debate can now tussle anew over the young center's monetary value. Apparently, Joakim recently turned down a five-year contract worth roughly $60 million, in hopes for an additional $10 million instead. The new Noah question of the week becomes "Is Joakim really worth roughly $14 million per season?" 

In theory, these negotiations should take no more than 15 minutes. It should be as easy as finding out the price of a frozen Digiorno's Pizza from your local grocer. If you want to know Joakim's proper market value, just hop on the internet and visit the market for NBA centers. 

The following table shows salary data for centers whose Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is within just two points above and two points below Joakim's 2009-10 rating of 17.96. I exclude centers who are in their rookie contracts (like Al Horford) or who are in their third or fourth NBA contracts (like Shaquille O'Neal) to focus on players who are on a similar pay scale. This allows us to see how Joakim's contemporaries are paid in the NBA.

 

As a primer, I love Joakim. I love his heart, passion, work ethic, and supreme will to win. He's grown on me a lot over the course of three years. In 2007, I thought the Bulls were insane for drafting the Gator pothead at No. 9, but now I find myself wondering what the Bulls would do without him. 

But the cold reality is, at $14 million a year, Noah would be grossly overpaid. At $70 million over five years, Noah would make over $15 million more than Nene and roughly $5 million more than Al Jefferson, who were both slightly more productive than Joakim last season. While Big Al and Nene have had a series of injuries, Joakim Noah's plantar fasciitis also indicates that his long-term health is not guaranteed. 

In addition, last season was Noah's first and only breakout year, and even then the Bulls barely threatened the Cavs last April. Clearly, Joakim is asking to be paid more on his promise and potential rather than his entire history of production.

Too many blossoming teams have had their championship quests derailed by excessive contracts. The Bulls have potential, but will need all the financial flexibility they can muster in order to add more pieces as their team evolves. Sentimentality for Joakim's endearing personality should not distract the Bulls organization. Joakim's proper market value is closer to $60-65 million over five years rather than the $70 million Joakim demands.

If the Bulls stick to their guns, Joakim and his agent will eventually recognize this offer as a fair one. Like everyone else, they are fully aware that they may never see such generosity again under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The requisite posturing will end, both sides will come to terms, Joakim will move on, continue to play hard, and most importantly, the team's basketball future will be better off because of it.

Ken is a writer for NBA-Analytiks at www.nba-analytiks.com

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