When the Chicago Bulls made Joakim Noah the No. 9 overall selection in the 2007 NBA Draft, they never would have guessed that their 6-foot-11 center would run their offense as well. Noah, known more for his defensive intensity at the University of Florida, was never considered an offensive playmaker in college and early in his NBA career.
However, Noah’s game would soon evolve after mid-season trade during the 2008-09 season. During that time, the Sacramento Kings shipped veteran Brad Miller to the Bulls, who would eventually mentor Noah over the next few seasons. Under the tutelage of center Vlade Divac in Sacramento, Miller quickly learned how to become a playmaking big man in Rick Adelman‘s pass-first Princeton offense.
Although Miller retired from the NBA in 2012, his knowledge of passing and finding open teammates is embedded in the mind of Noah today. Noah has often times credited Miller for teaching him how to read passing lanes and find open cutters. Noah’s ability to create for others has evolved his game to a level not many have seen before.
Since head coach Tom Thibodeau arrived in Chicago in 2010, he has utilized Noah’s passing skills in his offense. Noah’s assist total has increased every year for the past four seasons, and he has become the Bulls’ top playmaker. He currently leads the Bulls in assists at 5.2 per game and leads all centers as well. He has also shown that he is capable of running the fast-break while finding teammates in transition. That is a quality that is mostly found in point guards such as Steve Nash or Chris Paul—making Noah the NBA’s first ever point-center.With superstar guard Derrick Rose sidelined for two straight seasons, Noah’s playmaking capabilities have never been needed more than now.
Expect Noah’s passing skills to continue to grow as he gets older in the league. Also, expect to see other centers mimic Noah’s style of play on offense. The NBA is always evolving, and Noah may have changed the game forever.