When the Bulls watched Derrick Rose go down, that fateful night in Portland, their season appeared to be headed down the tubes. In advance of the trade deadline, Chicago sent Luol Deng, a longtime member of its core, to Cleveland. At the time of the Deng deal, the Windy City’s basketball team was 15-18 and joining the tank race seemed like the wisest move, even if Tom Thibodeau’s presence alone would keep the Bulls from being bad enough to net a top-five pick.
Fast forward to today, and Los Bulls – Toros to those who feel like the NBA could probably do better than just slapping los next to teams’ names to honor Latin heritage month – have a record of 36-29 and as the fourth seed in the East, are working their way towards earning home court advantage.
This is a direct result of a change in offensive philosophy that was born out of the season-ending injury to Rose. Chicago’s offense now runs through Joakim Noah. That can mean giving him the ball at the high-post, where he can utilize his passing skills, which are elite for a big man as well his improved jump shot. Noah is shooting 61.9 percent from 20-24 feet this season, per NBA.com. The eight-year veteran out of Florida, has also made significant strides in the pick-and-roll game, both as a screener, something he has become one of the most effective at and when rolling to the basket. Per synergy, Noah scores .97 points per possession as the roll man in pick-and-rolls. The Bulls deploy Noah in these two manners with great frequency. Of course, Thibs can also utilize Noah down on the blocks, where according to synergy he is scoring .76 points per possession.
Between taking command of the Bulls offense, his 97.9 defensive rating, which is fifth among centers, excluding Dexter Pittman, who has played just two games and 1.5 minutes this season, per NBA.com. Combine these with Noah’s expanded leadership role and what you have is a candidate who is more than worthy of All-NBA first team honors.
If Noah is deemed worthy, he will earn a $500K bonus. Considering where the Bulls season was once headed and Noah’s role in salvaging their season, to the point of possibly having home court advantage in the playoffs – tip of the cap to the abominably bad Eastern Conference as well – and Tom Thibodeau’s center, has certainly put in the work to earn that bonus.