We argue. You decide.
AL HORFORD (by Jaimie Canterbury)
Earlier this week, Joakim Noah signed a 5-year, $60 million contract extension with the Bulls. Well-deserved, seeing as there are only a handful of workhorses like Noah left in the League at the center position. There is no argument that the Bulls need Noah. But frankly, if they had the opportunity to swap Noah for Al Horford, they would do it. Noah is a great defender and rebounder, but the fact of the matter is that Horford does all of that and more.
Noah is coming off his best season to date, averaging a career-high 10.7 points and 11 rebounds per game. Horford, on the other hand, averaged 10.1 points and 10 rebounds in his rookie year, which was his least productive season to date. In the two years since his rookie debut, Horford averaged 11.5 ppg and 9.3 rpg in ’08-09, then followed that up with averages of 14.2 points and 10 rebounds this past season.
Horford has gotten better each year and has already been an All-Star, an accomplishment that Noah will probably never achieve. Horford finds a way to contribute offensively on a better offensive team, proving that his ability is miles away from Noah’s. The fact that Noah is often on the bench when the Bulls need scoring from the center spot shows how one-dimensional he is. Noah played a career-high 30.1 minutes per game last season, whereas Horford played 31 mpg in his rookie year.
Going back to their days running together at the University of Florida, Horford has always been better — Noah just got more hype. There was a reason Horford was picked No. 3 overall in the ’07 Draft, while Noah with No. 9 to Chicago. Both players are great contributors for their team, but there is no real comparison if you ask me.
JOAKIM NOAH (by Andrew Macaluso)
As teammates that won back-to-back NCAA national championships at Florida, it was only a matter of time until we made this argument — especially with Noah signing an extension with Chicago while Horford is still waiting for his.
When he entered the League, Noah was criticized and started more slowly, but broke through on the big stage of Chicago’s thrilling first-round playoff series against Boston two seasons ago. Then he was one of the League’s most improved players last season. But this argument simply comes down to who is more important to their team, and there’s no question that it’s Noah.
Not only did Noah add muscle to check with centers and bang under the glass, but he’s also one of best defenders in the League, man-to-man, guarding the rim, or against the pick-and-roll. If you want to compare numbers, I’d take Noah’s two extra rebounds (11 rpg to 9 rpg) in less minutes than Horford’s four extra points in more minutes. With Atlanta, Horford is their fifth-best player, while Noah is the second most important player for the Bulls.
Blocking shots, rebounding, and stellar defense are more important when it comes to playing in the post, which clearly Horford, 6-10, struggles more than Noah due to being undersized and playing out of position. Noah ranked 8th in rebounds last season, 5th with a Rebounding Rate of 17.96, and 7th in Defensive Rebounding with 27.6. Horford placed 15th in the League in rebounding, 23rd with a Rebounding Rate of 16.4, and 19th in Defensive Rebounding with 23.3. As for blocks, Noah placed 17th last season with 2.49 shots blocked per 48 minutes, while Horford finished 38th with 1.54 blocks.
When it comes to the playoffs, Noah steps his game up considerably while Horford seems to drop off a little. In ’09, Noah posted 10.1 points, 13.1 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks in 38 minutes in an epic series against the Celtics, while Horford struggled (6.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 0.7 bpg) throughout Atlanta’s two-round playoff run. In 2010, Noah (who wasn’t at full health) put up 14.8 points, 13 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in 36 minutes, while Horford finished with 14.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 35 minutes.
At Florida, Horford was the best post player, but this isn’t college anymore. In the NBA, Noah has become both the defensive and vocal leader for the Bulls, and is better in the post against the League’s most dominant big men. His offense is vastly improving but he still has a long way to go. As of right now, Noah’s ceiling is much higher than Horford, who seemingly has already peaked as a player.
Who do you think is better?