Why Joakim Noah Is Untouchable in Chicago Bulls Trade Talks

Haddon Anderson@HaddonAndersonAnalyst IFebruary 15, 2014

The Bulls should not even consider trading Joakim Noah.
The Bulls should not even consider trading Joakim Noah.Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With the trade deadline looming on February 20, speculation will ensue about potential moves the Chicago Bulls might make. Just don't expect Joakim Noah to be going anywhere.

The All-Star center should be deemed untouchable in any trade talks the Bulls have.

Even if a squad is willing to offer Chicago a package of young assets, the Bulls should recognize the elite value in the soon-to-be 29-year-old Noah.

He's simply not worth losing. The following points illustrate this.

A Defensive Anchor in a Defensive System

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Coach Tom Thibodeau's winning formula centers upon suffocating defense that regularly forces low-percentage looks. This type of defensive energy has become the Bulls' identity. It's the reason why they've remained competitive the past couple seasons while Derrick Rose has been sidelined. 

Noah embodies every attribute that Thibodeau desires in cultivating his defensive-minded system. The two-time All-Star thrives in his role as Chicago's defensive anchor.

He's arguably one of the most versatile defenders in the league. He's capable of not only containing the league's prominent big men, but he's also quick enough to switch onto wings and stay in front of them. 

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Rarely do you see Noah exploited on the defensive end. Every bucket against him has to be fought for, and his tenaciousness tends to wear on opponents. He never lets off the gas, constantly making life miserable for his counterpart.

Furthermore, Noah masterfully understands the timing of help-side defense, a staple in Thibodeau's crafty defensive schemes. He knows precisely when to show in the gap on a driving lane, frequently hovering in the paint and halting penetrators from high-percentage shots near the rim.

Noah's defensive abilities would be valuable on any team, but they're especially important for Chicago, who win because of defense. He's the perfect fit for Thibodeau's strategy and should remain in this instrumental role for the long-term future.

A Reasonable Contract

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

It should be noted that Luol Deng was another quality defensive player in Thibs' system, but the Bulls were content to deal him.

Noah's situation is vastly different than Deng's, though. First of all, Jimmy Butler is a similar defensive player to Deng, providing reason to believe that Deng could be replaced. Regarding Noah, Chicago has nobody waiting in the wings to slide into his slot.

More significantly, Deng's future status with the Bulls was in question. With an expiring contract and a clear desire to make more than what Chicago was willing to offer, the Bulls made the choice to trade him to create financial flexibility while also avoiding losing him for nothing.

The landscape regarding Noah is drastically different.

He is under contract through the 2015-16 season on a fairly reasonable contract. Considering that centers such as Tyson Chandler, Andrew Bogut and Nikola Pekovic (none of whom are All-Stars) are all currently making more than Noah, Noah looks like a bargain.

Center Contracts
Player2013-14 Salary
Joakim Noah$11,100,000
Tyson Chandler$14,100,538
Nikola Pekovic$12,100,000
Andrew Bogut$14,000,000

The Bulls are getting a great deal of production out of Noah, and he's worth every penny they're paying him. There's no incentive for them to consider trades when he's producing effectively while also playing on a multi-year, affordable contract.

Unique Offensive Skill Set 

February 9, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) controls the ball after grabbing a rebound against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Noah's forte is what he brings to the table defensively, but he also plays a featured role offensively.

His offensive repertoire is frequently criticized, namely because it's ugly and completely unorthodox. These are completely fair observations, especially when studying the mechanics of his jumper and his limited set of post moves. A lefty hook shot is essentially his only maneuver.

But ugly and unorthodox does not mean ineffective. Consider his offensive statistics from the past 30 days: 13.8 points per game, 6.1 assists per game and 4.4 offensive rebounds per outing.

While he finds ways to score, his primary value offensively is his adept passing skills. He facilitates much of Chicago's offense, often finding teammates for open looks on the perimeter or on backdoor cuts to the rim.

Noah averaged four assists per game during 2012-13, and he's notching 4.3 per contest this campaign. Such a high tally for a big man stirs thoughts of Chris Webber—one of the best passing frontcourt players of all time (4.2 assists per game during his career, per Basketball-Reference).

Noah is not a liability on offense. He doesn't pass the "eye test" because his moves aren't pretty, but he's a key ingredient for Chicago's attack with his unique skill set. 

Chicago's Heart and Soul

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Perhaps the greatest reason why the Bulls should keep Noah is his emotional leadership.

He's the heart and soul of the team, and the intangibles he showcases in terms of grit, communication and passion are virtually unparalleled. He epitomizes heart and hustle, and he's constantly hungry for success.

This was apparent after Chicago's recent win over the Brooklyn Nets. According to the AP via ESPN Chicago, Noah remarked, "We're happy, but we're not satisfied. We're hungry."

This pinpoints how driven Noah is and why he's regarded as one of the game's best centers. He's an absolute workhorse whose intensity is contagious. His infectious nature is invaluable to Chicago's style of play, and so much of what he supplies cannot be quantified through advanced statistics. 

The bottom line is that Noah is the heart and soul of Chicago's ball club. He fits Thibodeau's philosophies perfectly, his contract is ideal, his offensive skills are underrated and he's their indisputable emotional leader.

It would be foolish to even consider trading such a well-rounded, proven asset. 

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

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