A debut All-Star last season, Joakim Noah has gone from being viewed as more of a character to establishing himself as one of the top centers in the NBA, as well as a fan favorite in Chicago and elsewhere, and a polarizing figure in some circles, which might be even more of a testament to his development.
One of the league’s top individual rebounders and the anchor to one of its top defenses, Noah’s contagious energy level and one-of-a-kind personality make him the Bulls’ emotional leader. While he’ll never be a traditional post-up threat, his unique skill set enabled the Bulls to mitigate Derrick Rose’s absence last season by often running their offense through the playmaking center, whose ability to put the ball on the floor and set up teammates is uncanny. Noah alternated between confidence in his mid-range elbow jumper, nicknamed “The Tornado,” and his jump hook and periods when he was a reluctant scorer last season, but with Rose back, that won’t be as important to the Bulls’ offensive success.
His health, on the other hand, most certainly is, and though he was plagued by bouts of plantar fasciitis throughout the second half of last season, his near-miraculous gradual improvement in the first round of the playoffs shouldn’t be overlooked, as whatever treatment he received, whether by the Bulls’ medical staff or not, should be closely reviewed. But even if he stays relatively injury-free, his playing time will be something of heavy scrutiny, as some observers attempt to link his workload to subsequent stretches in street clothes.
Either way, after his career campaign a year ago, what shouldn’t be too closely examined are his scoring and assist numbers, as Rose’s presence will take the ball out of his hands more, making a repeat of his individual performance last season unlikely but by no means lessening his value.
Make sure to check out all the Bulls previews, each spotlighting this season's expectations for individual players and head coach Tom Thibodeau: