Joakim Noah has really turned some heads this season. He's now seen as a possible all-star center. Personally, I don't think Noah ever has a legit shot of making the all-star team while Dwight Howard and Brook Lopez are in the conference, but his name is popular as a dark horse to throw into the conversation.
I remember trying to convince friends last season that Noah would become a top 10 center in the league, which I feel he has, when they tried to tell me the guy was worthless. Now everyone loves Noah. Maybe everyone loves Noah a bit too much.
I don't think the Bulls will trade Joakim Noah at the deadline now. However, I think they should listen to offers for one simple reason. It's easy to love Noah on a contract a bit over two million a year while he's playing well. However, his trade value will never be higher. See a funny thing happens in 6 to 18 months. We need to extend his contract. In discussions of his worth, I've already seen 10 million a year thrown around as his value.
That doesn't mean the Bulls should trade him, but it means you have to look at it rationally. We've seen a lot of good players in this sub-all-star level go through this team, get extended to big contracts they didn't live up to or leave for relatively little [often on big contracts they didn't live up to]. I love Noah, but see Nocioni, Gordon, Hinrich, Deng, Curry, Crawford, Chandler, etc..
Still, once I look at the trade landscape, I can't imagine a trade for Noah where the Bulls come out ahead. The one hint of a possibility is if Noah were traded to the Raptors in a package for Chris Bosh. Noah would fit in marvelously with Andrea Bargnani and provide so much of what the Raptors need. Outside of Bosh, it's hard to imagine any other trade piece working out for the Bulls and the other team, and honestly it's hard to imagine the Raptors trading Bosh.
So let's say we've opened ourselves to the possibility of trading Noah but realize we're not going to get something better than Noah + chance at 2010 star for Noah. Now what? Do you start extension talks with Noah this summer?
I guess you have to try to see where he's at, but this is interesting for several reasons. First and foremost, what do you even set his worth at, and how much can his worth go up by playing another season? Also, if you wait another season, you'll sign him for six years rather than five in the most likely scenario which means it might be better to get a deal done now.
It's also worth remembering that Noah's rather small for a center, and thus, he carries a much greater chance of having injury issues as he the wear and tear mounts on him over the seasons. Locking him into a deal with one less year could have a large advantage if that becomes an issue down the road.
Finally, if you extend him this summer, he becomes almost untradeable next season as a poison pill provision contract guy, followed by the year of base year compensation player [which he'd have whether we extend him this summer or next summer]. This means, if you extend Noah this summer, you've ruled out trading him next season at the deadline. Probably slim chance of that happening anyway though.
I think the Bulls and Noah will both want to start discussions this off-season, and I'll be interested to see where both teams come in. If I'm the Bulls I probably agreed to a deal as large as 5/50 front loaded deal which has the maximum allowable declining salary. The Bulls won't need the cap space at the front of this deal, because the new salary won't kick in until 2011. Since we're under the cap this season, our next season's salary will be at the salary cap, and the team will only slowly build up towards the luxury tax again. Get the big payments out of the way while their is extra room available.
Does Noah leap at a 5/50 frontloaded deal? Do the Bulls leap to offer one? I'd probably start negotiations off with a 5/40 to 5/45 front loaded deal myself, but the Bulls MO has been "here's our best and only offer" in the early contract negotiations. It's unlikely the Bulls try and start low and negotiate upwards.
We'll have to wait and see what happens this summer with Noah. He's been one of my favorites since before joining the team, and I defended him the entire time. Soon I fear I'll be defending him from those who say he's overpaid, because it's a lot harder to like a guy after the big contract [Luol Deng says hi].