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Bulls’ defense not reliant on Joakim Noah

Apr 22, 2014, 12:55 PM EDT

When Joakim Noah played, the Bulls defended like the NBA’s second-best team.

When Noah didn’t play… the Bulls defended like the NBA’s second-best team.

Noah, when accepting Defensive Player of the Year yesterday, was eager to share credit.

“This award is a team award,” Noah said, echoing many previous winners.

More than ever, it was true.

Since 2008 – as far back as’s on/off data goes – no Defensive Player of the Year’s team allowed fewer points per possession without the winner on the court than the Bulls this season. Chicago’s defensive rating was a stout 98.0 with Noah on the bench (and 97.7 with him on the floor).

Here are the defensive ratings of the last seven Defensive Player of the Year’s teams with the winner on the court (red) and off the court (black):


Unsurprisingly, each team defended better with its Defensive Player of the Year. But the Bulls’ defense held up impressively well without him.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Noah shouldn’t be punished for playing for a good defensive coach and with good defensive teammates. He’s still worthy of the award.

But team success definitely factors into voting. Only one player outside a top-13 defensive team received votes (Anthony Davis on the 25th-ranked Pelicans), and only two top-10 teams had no players with votes (sixth-ranked Bobcats and ninth-ranked Raptors).

If Noah were the same defender but didn’t have a coach like Tom Thibodeau and teammates like Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler, maybe the Bulls center wouldn’t have won the award. That’s not exactly fair, but as much as Noah deserves credit for an excellent defensive season, the Bulls deserve credit for positioning him to thrive.

  1. redbaronx - Apr 22, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    Noah’s Defense isn’t just about stats. He’s a real distraction for the opposing side, so regardless of what the stats say pointing to the D being the same with him or without him, anyone with a keen eye knows that Noah prevents offenses from doing what they want to do.

  2. lj312chicago - Apr 22, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    That being said… Noah is the dpoy

  3. moseskkim - Apr 22, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    noah helped keep the bulls as the second best team while he was in and they were the same without. hmm noah plays most of his minutes with boozer so if he can make a squad with boozer 2nd best, then HE IS THE DPOY!

  4. antistratfordian - Apr 22, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    The award has been a team award for a few years now. It’s so bizarre, because the best defender in the league rarely wins it.

    • aboogy123456 - Apr 22, 2014 at 3:07 PM

      are you talking about lebron again? He’s good, but I think Noah is a better defender than him.

      • antistratfordian - Apr 22, 2014 at 3:14 PM

        Ha. No it’s not specifically about LeBron (to some it may be about Tony Allen).

        But you’re wrong about Noah and James. You know LeBron could shut down both Noah AND Derrick Rose. Noah is not nearly as capable defensively on the perimeter as LeBron is in the post (where he’s locked down All-Star 4s and 5s), and LeBron is still able to shut down the league’s quickest point guards while being bigger (weight) than Noah.

        So… that’s a major reach, aboogy.

      • aboogy123456 - Apr 22, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        Ok sorry I misread your comment. I do agree that we place too much emphasis on team success for the defensive player of the year, and also mvp IMO.

        But about Noah, I think he does a fantastic job guarding the perimeter, better than lebron guards the post. What amazes me about Noah is that he has quick feet for a big man so he can stay in front of smaller guys, but also has a ton of length. Lebron is great at shutting down 2’s and 3’s, and helping out down low, but I think if Noah was called upon to guard the perimeter he could do it, and overall he has more of a defensive impact.

      • calkinsrob - Apr 22, 2014 at 4:44 PM

        ill give anti a few thumbs up even though i dont totally agree. I do feel like lebron should get at least one of these things. I dont think its a major reach to say noah on the perimeter > Lebron in the post, but I do think Lebron may be the superior defender. I guess in the the flow of the game its easier to see how important the rim protector’s are than the good perimeter defenders.

        Has tony allen won one before? he has to have one, hes been known as one of the best defenders for a while now.

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