With the acquisition of Carlos Boozer in early July, the Bulls not only acquired their much-needed post scorer. They also gave Joakim Noah a chance to blossom further.
Noah has been used as the primary pick and roll player with Derrick Rose, and that despite Noah's inability to create his own offense in the post. Yet, he did all right anyway. Converting on 57.3% of his shots at the rim and being assisted on 52.6% of these attempts.
But this year, Noah will get a different role. Gone are the days where he'll step out 20 feet from the basket to set a screen on half the plays called by Chicago. So how will that affect his game, and the Bulls?
Noah is best described as a player who hustles his way to lose balls, rebounds and cleans up around the basket, and thus, gets a lot of his points through put-backs and offensive rebounds. But while most pigeonhole him into that role, there is more to Noah's offense.
Over the course of last season, Noah showed an imprved jump-hook with either hand as well as a much-improved, yet unorthodox, jumper from the 16-23 feet area. The shot became a minor necessity for the Bulls, given that the only other two interior players who could hit it were Brad Miller and Taj Gibson. Nice players to be sure, but far from big-impact players.
With Boozer in the red, white and black, Noah can now pick and choose his spots moreso than before, as he and Boozer will form an inside/outside big man presence that can have Boozer set up camp at the free throw line area, with Noah free-roaming inside and moving away from the ball to gain an edge. With Noah's athletic ability and good motor, he will tire out opponents and attack from the low-block when he feels he has an advantage.
Over his entire career, Boozer has been known as a solid interior passer. He's not Brad Miller, but is projected to do well with Noah in that regard anyway. The fact that Noah can also pass the ball, means the two will play off each other a lot and create a high volume of shots at the rim.
Throw Derrick Rose into the mix, and suddenly Noah has even more attention removed from himself. The 6'11 center will benefit greatly from defenses that double-team either Rose or Boozer, and with Luol Deng lurking on the wing alongside Ronnie Brewer, the lack of focus on Noah will not stop before he's begun tourching teams inside on open dunks, through bad box-outs, through lack of rotation and through whatever area Noah is excellent at sneaking in at.
The fact that Boozer can create his own shot on the low-block also gives Noah the opportunity to play more on his strenght in cleaning up plays. Boozer, who is excellent with both hands, is one of the best in the business at leaning himself in towards the basket. This frequently draws a lot of defensive attention, and Noah has made a career of exploiting players who turn their backs to him for just a second. A high-percentage shot-attempt from Boozer will undoubtedly give Noah more freedom to attack the glass from the weakside.
One parallel that can be made to the Boozer/Noah pairing is Horace Grant and Bill Cartwright from back in the Championship years. Grant was the enforcer and the muscle who could bulldoze his way to the basket, and either make an offensive play or find Cartwright who had snuck in off the penetration attention gathered by Grant. At the same time, it could work the other way around. Cartwright would have the ball on the low-block, and hit a cutting Grant with a perfect interior pass, leading to a high-percentage shot.
The difference in the pairings? Joakim Noah is a lot better, a lot more athletic and much younger than Bill Cartwright. His unlimited energy and ability to never get rattled by attention is going to create shots for himself, Boozer, Rose and especially Ronnie Brewer. The 6'7 shooting guard moves well off the ball and has made a living in cutting hard to the basket with his excellent athleticism.
It's not just in the post and in half-court settings that Boozer and Noah projects to mesh well. Last season, Noah averaged an impressive 11 rebounds in just over 30 minutes per contest. Boozer, who also grabbed 11 per game, will help Noah control the defensive glass which will give the center a chance to rush down the floor alongside Rose, and utilize his speed in the open court. Noah has proven to be a good high-paced center, and this year he should get a chance to put that on display again, only on larger volume.
While Boozer is not known for his defense, he does have something he can put to good use, which Noah has not had alongside before him. Boozer is 266 pounds of strength and muscle. He may not possess the best defensive awareness, but his raw strength is going to shield off opponents enough for Noah to read the offense and react accordingly. It's not out of the realm of possibility to see Noah's shot-blocking rate increase significally next season due to this.
Not to be forgotten, Noah did take big strides last year due to an off-season in which he dedicated himself entirely to condition and nutrition. Another strong summer of self-improvement must not be overlooked when factoring in Noah's development.
All in all; Noah has a lot of weapons this season to work with, a lot of weapons alongside him, and when Noah is at the top of his game, he frequently seems to dominate. This seasons projects him to do no less than that.