Joakim Noah's Evolution To Point-Center

Joakim Noah's Evolution To Point-Center
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Joakim Noah's story to the NBA is incredible. Through all of the adversity and criticism, Joakim Noah is about to make his second straight All-Star appearance this weekend. Noah's development from just another inexperienced college kid to becoming a prime-time NBA center has been a very long process, but it's been showing only positive results over the past few years. With Derrick Rose's torn ACL in 2012, Joakim Noah was forced to take on a new role on offense: an initiator. During the entirety of the 2012-13 season, Noah was forced to take on an evolution of his new role as an initiator. His new role/position is seemingly unique to only him, as his skill-set is unlike any other center in the league. In the 2012-13 season, Joakim Noah took on the role of being the Bulls' point-center. Whether Kirk Hinrich was in the lineup or not, the offense ran through Noah. Noah's point-center role took center stage when Kirk Hinrich was out with an injury and the only two healthy point guards on the Bulls' roster were Nate Robinson and Marquis Teague. Noah, who many consider as the best passing big-man in the game, ran the offense as best as he could, showcasing passes that astounded defenses. Joakim Noah brought his unique array of skills to the offense and ran it exactly how Tom Thibodeau wanted him to. If Robinson (or Teague) got the ball to Noah, Noah was generally 14-18 feet out from the hoop on the left side of the court (if you're facing the basket). He'd have Deng or Boozer/Gibson ball side with him, posting up their man, and have Robinson at the top of the key. Butler and Belinelli would be weak side and constantly moving around to free passing lanes for Noah. Noah had many options, and his basketball IQ lead him to run through every option in his head within half a millisecond.

Noah helped lead the Bulls to an improbable run in the playoffs. Noah, who played through much of the second half of the season with plantar fasciitis, had the best game of his career in Game 7 of the Bulls' 2013 first round match up against the Brooklyn Nets, pushing and willing the Bulls in to the next round of the playoffs with 24 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 blocks. The Bulls managed to steal a game from Miami in Miami before being eliminated in 5 games. Noah was obviously disappointed, but had to feel slightly relieved. He was able to fully get over the plantar fasciitis and get fully healthy. He was getting his All-Star point guard back in the form of Derrick Rose, and this season was supposed to be the season where the Bulls finally make it over the hump and surpass Miami (and Indiana). After Derrick Rose went down, again, Noah had to resume his role of point-center.

Even with guys like Hinrich and Augustin, the offense generally runs through Noah. Noah is 30th in the league in assists per game, averaging 4.3 assists per game. His 220 assists are the most of anyone on the Bulls this year (and more than Paul George [179] and Carmelo Anthony [145]) thus far, and is averaging more assists per game than any other eligible center in the league. Noah recorded his 4th career triple-double Tuesday night against the Atlanta Hawks. Joakim Noah actually is 3rd in the league (over the last 3 years) in total triple-doubles, behind Rajon Rondo and Kevin Durant. Noah sets the tone for the Bulls not only with his passion, but with his play on offense and defense. On fast breaks, you might see Noah bringing the ball up. Frank Vogel would yell at Roy Hibbert if he did that. Erik Spoelstra would yell at Chris Bosh if he did that. So then why does Thibodeau legitimately call plays when Joakim Noah is bringing the ball up the court on a fast break? Joakim Noah's vision is unmatched by any other player on the court, and his basketball IQ leads him to making the correct decision more times than not.

On screen and roles, when Noah is the screener, the Bulls are nearly unguardable. When Noah is coming from the left side (when the ball handler is facing the hoop), Noah always backscreens. This allows a guy like Augustin to drive to penetrate while Noah does a dive cut to the hoop. Noah will then either finish it with a layup or kick it out to Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell, or Mike Dunleavy Jr. for the corner three. When Noah is coming from the right side, Noah always sets a hard screen. When the ball gets dished to Noah, Noah is about a step behind the free throw line. Taj Gibson or Carlos Boozer will be around 12-15 feet from the basket on the baseline, and whoever is defending them has to make a decision. If they decide to stick with Gibson or Boozer, then Noah has an easy lane to the basket. If they decide to challenge Noah, Noah will then dish the ball to Gibson or Boozer for a 12 foot jump shot, which is Gibson and Boozer's bread and butter this year. Joakim Noah's versatile offensive skill set and vision makes it perfect for the offense to run through him. The Bulls are taking a 27-25 record into the All-Star break, and they wouldn't be anywhere near that record if it wasn't for their All-Star point-center.