Despite finishing fourth in the MVP voting this season, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was by far the undisputed MVP of the team over the past two seasons. And with Derrick Rose being out for basically two years, Noah’s improvement couldn’t have come at a better time.
Noah’s energy has fueled the team in more ways than one. Over the course of the 2012-13 season, Noah combined with former Bulls guard Nate Robinson to electrify the crowd at the United Center nearly every home game they played in. Noah’s on-court hustle, along with Robinson’s perpetual display of emotion, carried the Bulls throughout that season and into the playoffs. As a result, Chicago was able to defeat the Brooklyn Nets in a seven-game series before ultimately losing to the Miami Heat in five games.
Fast forward to the 2013-14 season. Robinson moved on to the Denver Nuggets while the Bulls prepared for the return of Rose. His return didn’t last more than 10 games after tearing his meniscus in his right knee. With Rose out for another season, and forward Luol Deng being shipped to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls were looking for a leader.
Noah stepped up to the challenge and proved that he was more than a high-octane energy player on defense. He improved in every statistical category during the year, and averaged 12 points, 11 rebounds and five assists — the 10th most assists by a center in a single season in NBA history.
Teams were finally not sagging off on Noah on offense due to his ability to pass the ball and find open cutters and shooters. He essentially became the point-center for the Bulls, playing at the elbow and even bringing up the ball at times. After all, it’s very unusual to find a 6-foot-11 center making plays for his teammates while running the offense.
With Rose now on pace to return for the 2014-15 season, the Bulls will have two MVP-caliber players this time around. If Rose and Noah can both stay healthy, Chicago will have a lot to cheer about next season.