The MVP conversation seems to be down to Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Just put that on repeat for the next three or four years as those two should be fighting for the distinction of best player in the NBA.
The intrigue in the MVP conversation is who finishes third.
Certainly people could have foreseen Blake Griffin taking the steps he has to establish himself as one of the best players in the league. He has silenced a lot of doubters and deserves MVP consideration.
The other guy in that running? Joakim Noah.
No one saw that one coming. Noah has been an absolute revelation for the Bulls in just about every facet. A season that looked lost when Derrick Rose went down with yet another knee injury was saved by the sheer will of Joakim Noah. He has become the very odd point center.
While many were calling on the Bulls to tank and start hoping to pair Rose with a high draft pick whenever he gets healthy, Noah might have proven that Rose already has the perfect partner. In any case, it was enough to get the Bulls back to the Playoffs and in contention for a top-3 seed.
Clearly, Noah has been the difference.
“He’s got great will to win,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “A great will to win. No matter what’s going on in a game. But, even sometimes when things aren’t going his way when a game’s on the line, he’s going to find a way to make something good happen. And that’s important.”
Noah has always had that drive. He was the spark plug to two national championships in college and while everyone questioned his skills entering the Draft, no one questioned his drive. That drive helped him become a major contributor to the up-and-coming Bulls in the late 2000s and a championship contender (when Rose is healthy) now.
In Rose’s absence, Noah’s game has blossomed. He is averaging 12.5 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Those are modest stats for sure. But what he has done goes beyond a simple box score. The Bulls are +7.4 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court compared to when he is off the court. When he is on the floor, his defense and passing ability make the Bulls better.
So despite not having Rose, teams are still wary of facing Chicago. Noah is a big part of that.
It does not always show up in the box score why, but it is pretty clear when you see him play. Noah deserves a place in the MVP conversation because of it.