Feb 13, 2013; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Chicago Bulls forward/center Joakim Noah (13) guards Boston Celtics forward/center Brandon Bass (30) during the third quarter at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls: Should Joakim Noah Be The Favorite To Win NBA Defensive Player Of The Year?

He’s never going to be a 20+ points per game scorer in the NBA, but his stellar defense, extreme versatility and enthusiastic style of play are what make Joakim Noah one of the very best in the league today.

With starting point guard Derrick Rose still out of action with a knee injury, the Chicago Bulls have needed their other stars to step up in his absence.

The team currently owns a record of 33-25, which is second in the Central Division (three games behind the Indiana Pacers) and sixth in the Eastern Conference (9.5 games out of first place). That’s a very respectable record, especially considering the team is missing its former league MVP.

A lot of the Bulls success can be attributed to Noah, who is having his best season since entering the NBA back in 2007.

Through 54 games, Joakim is averaging career-highs in points (11.9), rebounds (11.4), assists (4.2), blocks (2.2) and steals (1.3). His brilliant start to the year didn’t go unnoticed by other coaches around the league, as he was selected to his very first Eastern Conference All-Star team as a reserve back in February.

During last night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Joakim Noah made history, putting up one of the more impressive stat-lines that you will ever see.

Playing all but three minutes, Noah finished with a triple-double of 23 points, 21 rebounds (eight offensive) and 11 blocks. He became the third player in the league this season (Roy Hibbert, Larry Sanders) to achieve a triple-double consisting of points, rebounds and blocks.

He also becomes just the third player in NBA history to score more than 20 points, grab more than 20 rebounds and block more than ten shots in a single game. The other two to accomplish that feat were Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwan.

That’s some pretty good company.

Numbers like that may very well sway some folk when voting comes along for NBA Defensive Player of the Year at the end of the season.

He currently ranks second in the NBA in Defensive Win Shares with 4.4 (just behind Paul George of the Indiana Pacers at 4.8). Defensive Win Shares are a metric that estimates the number of wins a player produces for his team due to his defensive ability.

His Defensive Rating (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions) of 96.8 ranks sixth in the league, as well.

Other potential candidates for the award include Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies, Larry Sanders of the Milwaukee Bucks, Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs and Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder, but in my opinion, no one player has been more important to his team on defense this season than Noah.

The Bulls own a team defensive rating of 102.1, which is fourth in the NBA. They also hold opponents to 91.3 points on 43.3% shooting, which is third in both categories respectively.

It’s not just Noah’s defense that makes Chicago so formidable. A lot of credit must go to coach Tom Thibodeau, who is known around the league for being a defensive specialist. However, its players like Noah that make Thibodeau look so damn good.

Chicago allows 106.1 points per 100 possessions when Noah is on the bench, compared to 100.8 when he’s in the game.

It’s not only his ability to defend the paint effectively, but his willingness to come outside and defend the perimeter and guard quicker guards and forwards that makes Joakim so formidable on the defensive end.

The race for NBA Defensive Player of the Year is nowhere close to being over, but if you gave me an opportunity to make my selection right at this moment, I’d find it very difficult to put my money on anyone other than Joakim Noah.

Chris Walder is the Editor of Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter at @WalderSports

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Tags: Chicago Bulls Joakim Noah NBA Defensive Player Of The Year

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