I was listening to the latest Bulls Zone Podcast and the guys asked a fair question: "What's wrong with Joakim Noah? (I'm paraphrasing) This hasn't been the same dynamic guy that gave the Bulls' hope last year and finished in the top 5 in MVP voting. We've seen spurts where that guy is on the court, but overall the Bulls fanbase seems to be worrying about Joakim Noah. Here are 5 reasons you shouldn't worry about Joakim Noah:
- With more talent comes more sacrifices: The Bulls added Pau Gasol and surprising rookie, Nikola Mirotic, Derrick Rose returned, and Jimmy Butler became a superstar. Someone had to sacrifice and because Joakim Noah doesn't need the ball in his hands the majority of the game, it was Joakim Noah. We've seen this in Miami and most recently in Cleveland. Guys who we are used to seeing put up big stats are seeing their roles reduced in these "Big 3" teams. There's nothing wrong with that. Joakim Noah's usage percentage last year was 18.7%. This year it's 14.7%. To put it simply: The Bulls aren't using Joakim Noah as a "point center" as much this year and instead are utilizing their other weapons.
- Joakim Noah literally did not play basketball this summer...at all: Here's an article from Nick Friedell where he states that Noah didn't play much basketball this summer due to his knee surgery, which was supposed to be minor, but turns out it wasn't so minor. Noah is behind the curve slightly and is still catching up. He has been gradually looking more and more like Joakim Noah as the season has progressed.
- He's on a minutes restriction still: If you look at last season, Joakim Noah played averaged 35 minutes per game and this season, he's averaging only 31.6. Per 36 minutes, the only real variance in his stats from last year are his points per game (down from 12.9 per 36 to 9.7 per 36) and his field goal percentage (47.5% last year to 45.5% this year). Otherwise, his numbers are similar. His PER is down and is barely above the league average, but still no reason to panic yet.
- Joakim Noah is still playing great defense: Last year, Joakim Noah held opponent's to 47.2% at the rim per NBA.com/stats. This year it has slipped, but not considerably and he's holding opponent's to 52.7% at the rim. His difference in defended field goal percentage (percentage opponent's shoot when he's directly challenging the shot) has actually gotten better. Last year, he was at -3.5% and this year it's at -4.4%. His defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) has slipped some, but is still 4th on the team and probably can be attributed to the Bulls recent success on offense.
- He's stabilizing as the season progresses: Here's Joakim Noah's stats per month:
- October: 5.5 points per game, 9.5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, 3 turnovers, 36.4% FG, 75% FT in 28.6 minutes per game (2 games)
- November: 8.5 points per game, 9.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.3 blocks, 0.7 steals, 1.6 turnovers, 44.1% FG, 60.6% FT in 32 minutes per game (12 games)
- December: 9.4 points per game, 10 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1 steal, 1.8 turnovers, 50% FG, 61.8% FT in 31.1 minutes per game (11 games)
- January: 7.3 points per game, 11 rebounds, 3.7 blocks, 1.7 steals, 2.3 turnovers, 39.1% FG, 57.1% FT in 33.7 minutes per game (3 games)
January is looking rough, but Noah's numbers have been becoming more normal and January is still early. Joakim Noah is becoming more and more like Joakim Noah.
Rest easy, Bulls fans. Joakim Noah is okay even if he's dealing with knee issues that, according to Joe Cowley, will plague him the entire season. People forget that before last season, Joakim Noah was a role player/energy guy on a really good team. Last year he became something more because he had to. This guy is willing to sacrifice his stats to win a championship and he's proven that his entire career. This year is no different. Statistically, he may not be the Bulls' MVP like he was last year, but he's still their heart and soul and one of the leaders in that locker room.
Brandon Pence is the editor and creator of "The Bulls Charge." You can follow him on Twitter @thebullscharge or like "The Bulls Charge" on Facebook and Google+
1 John 4:19