Many people went into the 2013-14 NBA season considering the Chicago Bulls as one of the teams that were going to challenge the Miami Heat atop the Eastern Conference. Some people, in fact, were predicting that the Bulls would topple the Heat for the best record in the conference. It’s still early in the season, but that seems like a distant memory.
To put it kindly, the Bulls haven’t been great through their first nine games of the year. Their defense, which has been a staple of this team, has looked great, but their offense has been another story. Derrick Rose still trying to get back to form has been an issue and one of several reasons that the Bulls are one of the 10 worst offenses in the league in terms of points per 100 possessions.
Another big factor in their struggles to start this season and the team not looking as great as many thought they would has been the struggles of center Joakim Noah. After having arguably the best season of his career last season with Rose out, Noah has been up against it this season. Through nine games, the big, energetic center is averaging just 8.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.9 blocks and 1.4 steals in 29.8 minutes per game while shooting just 44.6 percent from the field. His current field goal percentage would be the worst of his career by far if it were to last the entire season.
On Thursday night, though, the Bulls will face off with the Denver Nuggets in the late-night game of a nationally television double-header. The Nuggets are still without injured center JaVale McGee, which means Timofey Mozgov will see the bulk of the minutes at center for a team with an already struggling frontcourt. Obviously having a big game from Rose or others would aid their cause, but Noah taking advantage of this matchup is critical to their success.
Noah has to continue to show his energy and remain active on both ends of the floor and on the glass. More than that, he has to stay out of foul trouble, another issue he’s had so far this year, against a center with limited offensive ability like Mozgov. If he’s able to come out on top in a favorable individual matchup on Thursday, it should not only help the Bulls score a win, but could also get him going moving forward.