There’s a funny thing about polarizing sports figures, you either love them or you hate them. After a year of Joakim Noah, I’m actually starting to like him.
Joakim Noah – Chicago Bulls Center
Measurements: 6’11” – 232 lbs.
Experience: Rookie, 23 years old
From: University of Florida
Points – 18 (vs. Milwaukee)
Rebounds – 20 (vs. Cleveland)
Assists – 4 (4x)
Steals – 4 (2x)
Blocks – 4 (3x)
Minutes Played – 40 (vs. Cleveland)
What This Year Proved
Joakim Noah showed the same tenacity and hustle that he displayed while in college. After Ben Wallace’s departure, Joakim must have led the team in rebounds tipped to himself. The man is tenacious.
Joakim’s a very good interior passer. He’s also quite adept at passing out of the block. Unlike the majority of big men, Joakim on the block isn’t a black hole for basketballs. He’s very much willing to toss it out and allow the ball to reverse or let himself re-set on the block.
The rookie big man also showed that he’s got some defensive skills. Oddly enough, I think his man defense is better than his off-ball defense. You would think it’s the other way around but I think you can catch Joakim watching the ball too often. He tends to drift when he’s playing weak side D. Then he overplays on help penetration, allowing his man easy buckets at the rim.
When Chicago plays zone, he’s marginally better because he’s still in college mode. Joakim still puts a hand on opponents in the zone rather than just shuffling his feet.
He has also proved that he’s willing to learn and capable of improving. His numbers in November were 3.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.7 blocks and 0.7 steals. He steadily improved his game throughout the season. His improvement as well as an increase in playing time — mutually inclusive — lead to quite an increase. In April, his numbers were 10.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.6 steals.
“Sometimes the media should think before writing their stories. [They wrote that] I got into a ‘physical altercation’ with the strongest guy in the league? Do you think I’m stupid?” — from SLAM, when approached about why he allegedly fought with Ben Wallace
Joakim tends to overpass, especially while on the block. I’ve noticed that when he has a good shot, instead of taking it up strong over the defense, he’ll try to force it around his man to Tyrus Thomas or Drew Gooden. Jim Boylan and the coaching staff obviously got on his case about this eventually. Towards the end of the season, Joakim was starting to actually look at the basket when the ball was in his hands.
Drastic improvement should be welcomed on the offensive end. The Bulls should teach him a few go to moves that he can employ with his back to the basket. Joakim’s got a little baby hook that he should shoot with more confidence. Drawing a few more plays up for him can really increase his confidence long-term.
Season Grade: B+
Joakim did a good job this year. He filled in as a role player early but really came on strong towards the end. Once inserted into the starting line-up, he almost doubled his productivity. Joakim is a bit outspoken, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The problem is that he has no credibility as a rookie and he tended to speak up at times when no one else would. You can’t blame a guy for caring though…