Joakim Noah has been called the heart and soul of this Bulls team many times. He plays with tremendous energy, enthusiasm, and effort. He defends the pick and roll, plays help defense, passes exceptionally well, runs the floor, and knocks down his free throws, but for a guy who plays in the position of Miami's greatest weakness, is he enough?
Miami has a glaring hole a center which they've tried to fix this off-season by signing the oft-injured Greg Oden. Maybe that will work out, if so, the rest of the NBA is done. However, in the likely event that Oden either completely sucks or can't stay healthy, Miami will again play out the season with a big man rotation of Bosh, Haslem, and Anderson with LeBron adding in depth by playing PF.
It's a rotation without a true center, one that's weak in the middle. It's a rotation that can be exploited by the right player. Joakim Noah's playing on a value contract. Joakim Noah does many wonderful things to help the Bulls win, but Joakim Noah may not be the right player to exploit that weakness.
He doesn't have the post game. He doesn't have the pure size. After watching Roy Hibbert average 22 points per game on 57% shooting against Miami in the playoffs, it's become clear that the Bulls aren't exploiting the middle nearly well enough.
Hibbert's a fine player, and he makes quite a bit more than Noah as he's on a max deal. Roy Hibberts aren't just sitting in the discount bin in NBA free agency after all. Still, he's somewhat of a pedestrian offensive player typically. I'd take Noah over Hibbert against many teams in the NBA, probably most teams. Noah provides better overall defense, and Hibbert's offense isn't so great against most matchups.
While Noah's amongst the league's best centers, against the most important matchup, Hibbert's the vastly better player. While the Bulls have an advantage at Miami's greatest weakness, they haven't shown they can exploit it well enough that a series win seems likely.
The two places it's easiest to attack Miami are at PG and C, Derrick Rose will need to prove he's all the way back. He'll need to prove he can do a hell of a lot more than he did in the 2010/11 playoffs, but Joakim Noah also has something to prove. The Bulls need more than help defense and offensive rebounding from Noah.
They need him to break down the Heat defense. They need him to get guys collapsing underneath and to cause havoc with the Heat's scheme. They need him to be a secondary point of attack that causes problems. It's a tall order for Noah, but he's shown that ability in bursts. He doesn't always need to score, he can just establish position and find the open man, something he's quite skilled at.
In the end, most Bulls fans would put Noah as the Bulls second best player, he made his first all-star team last year, and if the Bulls are to win a championship then he needs to bring even more to the table then he already is.
Filed under: Players