Noah for Defensive Player of the Year?

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Noah for Defensive Player of the Year?

SportsIllustrated's Ben Golliverreleased his first quarter NBA awards today, and Joakim Noah was dubbed the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year.
It's lofty praise for the 27-year-old, who has seen a boost in productivity after the Bulls declined to bring back reserve center Omer Asik. Noah is second in the NBA in minutes per game (39.8), trailing only his teammate Luol Deng (41.2) in that category.
But Noah's play has earned him those minutes, too. He ranks sixth in the league in rebounds per game (10.8), third in steals for centers (1.4) and fifth in blocks (2.3). He and Lakers center Dwight Howard are the only two players in the league averaging double-digit rebounds, a steal and two blocks per game.
The tiebreakers between those two -- Golliver does not list Howard in his top three candidates -- has been the Bulls' play. Whereas the Lakers have been one of the league's biggest disappointments, the Bulls have remained one of the league's top defenses and are atop the Central Division standings through 19 games. Golliver points out that the Bulls allow the fewest points per possession of any team in the league.
Golliver has Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka trailing Noah in the race, while Memphis shooting guard Tony Allen ranks third and would be the first guard since Gary Payton in 1996 to win the award.
While Noah has impressive defensively in the early going, he's also managed to average a career-high 13.7 points and 4.2 assists. Chalk it up to the increase in minutes, but Noah is playing the best basketball of his six-year career.
Bulls fans will also notice another familiar face in that Golliver ranked Asik third in the running for Most Improved Player. Brooklyn's Andray Blatche and Dallas' O.J. Mayo are legitimate frontrunners, but Asik is averaging a double-double in his first season in Houston and, with the help of fellow newcomers Jeremy Lin and James Harden, helped the Rockets stay afloat in the Western Conference. As of Tuesday's games, Houston sits just one game out of the No. 8 seed in the West, a drastic improvement to preseason expectations, even with the arrival of Harden.

Preps recruiting: Illini add another 2017 piece

Preps recruiting: Illini add another 2017 piece

Illinois and head coach Lovie Smith added another piece to the Fighting Illini Class of 2017 late last night when Prospect two-star ranked offensive tackle Alex Palczewski (6-foot-6, 270 pounds) gave Illinois his verbal commitment.

"I felt extremely comfortable at Illinois," Palczewski told Orange and Blue News publisher Doug Buschon last night. "I know with Coach Lovie Smith there, that program is going to go sky high. We're going to win."

Palczewski, who flew under most recruiting radar screens missed his entire 2015 junior season because of an injury is now the 20th known verbal commitment in the Illinois Class of 2017 and the ninth known in-state commitment. 

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