By Craig Fields
Well obviously I think that the MVP (Most Valuable Player) of the NBA will either be Paul George, Kevin Durant, or LeBron James. When it comes right down to it those three are quite frankly the three that deserve to be the finalists. However, there are cases that can be made around the league for other talented players.
Blake Griffin, James Harden, and John Wall should all be considered. But one of the names that has picked up steam lately, and rightfully so, is Joakim Noah. He has emerged as one of the most fearless leaders in the NBA on a team that is without arguably a top 10 player in the NBA in Derrick Rose.
Noah has raised his game to another level. He has unarguably become the fulcrum, the crutch, the centerpiece of a defensive squad that sprinkles in offensive runs to ultimately win games that frankly they should not win. Since the month of January the Chicago Bulls have a record of 26-11 and do not look like they are planning on slowing down anytime soon.
Noah is currently averaging career highs in points, rebounds and assists. He remains the constant that this playoff team can look toward to when they are lost on both the offensive or defensive side of the ball.
The Bulls are currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and looking to climb higher. Noah is ranked 11th in total defensive efficiency and leads arguably the league’s best defense. Noah is tied for second in the league with three triple-doubles, tied for eighth in the league in double-doubles with 34 and is ranked 27th in the league in overall total efficiency.
His overall game has evolved to fit what the Bulls have needed to stay afloat in a weak Eastern Conference. Noah is all about team. The team concept and success is all that matters the humble superstar.
“I don’t like it,” Noah said of the MVP chants from the fans during Friday nights’ win over the Sacramento Kings. “That’s not what’s important to me. It’s just all about this team right now, and I think we’ve done so much that it’s not about individual accolades, it’s about us and everything that we’ve gone through. That’s what this season’s about to me.”
Well those chants will continue to get louder and more frequent if he keeps putting up monster lines like he did in that game. He led the Bulls with 23 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 blocks, and 3 steals, in a game that got away from the Kings late because of Noah’s defensive tenacity, emotion, and aggressiveness.
Except for three-pointers, there is no stat that Noah is not basically dominating in this stretch of eight wins out of 11 games. One thing that has really propelled Noah offensively is his willingness and ability to knock down the open jumper.
“I’m confident now that I feel like if I’m open I need to knock that down, and it’s a great feeling. I’m not going to lie, it’s like the best feeling ever is knocking down a jump shot,” he said, “because there’s so many people who told me, ‘You can’t shoot, or don’t shoot it. You’re an energy guy, you’re not supposed to be shooting jump shots.’ And to knock those down, there’s just no better feeling.”
It is that effort and commitment to getting better that has made this University of Florida college graduate an MVP candidate in my opinion. Pride, hunger, intensity and leadership can not be taught. You either have it or you do not. Joakim Noah has all of that and more.