By Shane Phillips @ShaneRantSports on March 13, 2014
After the Chicago Bulls lost Derrick Rose for a second straight season, many thought they were done -- another season down the drain. But if you remember correctly, the Bulls were able to make the playoffs last season without Rose, and it looks like it will happen again. Why? Because of one player who has emerged as a leader, star and MVP candidate. That one player is Joakim Noah.
Both LeBron James and Kevin Durant have been a little shaky since the All-Star Break. Since his 61-point performance, James and the Miami Heat have tanked, losing four out of the last five. Durant has continued his scoring tear, but the Oklahoma City Thunder are 4-5 since the break. Once the only two candidates in the running, they have opened the door for Noah to join the race.
Once again, Chicago has overcome the absence of Rose and mostly due to Noah's play. The Bulls don't exactly have a lot of offensive firepower, but Noah has found a way to get them to win without scoring 100 points a night. Currently with a record of 35-29, Chicago sits in the fourth spot and is eying the Toronto Raptors for third. I'd say Noah has done a great job filling in as the star player.
Blocking shots, diving for loose balls and slapping up teammates, that is what Noah is all about. The type of team mentality you usually see in college basketball has been brought to the pros by Noah. He even called out a teammate for not participating in a hip-bump. Whether he is on defense, offense or the bench, Noah is a tremendous all-around team player.
Noah might not be averaging 30 points a game, but the center is currently sporting a double-double for his stats and his overall season is impressive. The center is averaging 12.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals on the season. When has the league seen a center average those kind of numbers? Noah is a player who will literally stuff the stat sheet and do everything on the court. That sounds like an MVP to me.
There is no question that Noah's best trait is his passion for the game. He is so intense and into the moment that it usually bothers the opponent and gets under other players' skin. That is exactly the problem with the NBA, though; the passion and intensity hasn't been there. Noah is the entire package, from his leadership to his skills on the court -- the guy can do it all. I hate to say it, but the NBA needs more players like Noah.
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