Derrick Rose’s season ending injury and Luol Deng’s departure for Cleveland, one of Joakim Noah’s favorite destinations, would’ve put most teams asunder. Chicago tanks for no man, though. Drill Sergeant Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t have it any other way and his players heed the call for the most part.
Two Chi-Town bros stepped up considerably on the road to winning seven of their last 10 games. One’s a known suspect in Joakim Noah who’s peculiar presentation overlooks the upsides to his game. The second’s an arguably forgotten man on a mean-ass run. His name? D.J. Augustin.
Joakim Noah’s known to be a hazard on the boards, but he’s been getting his points tally clicking aside from a few blips. The added offensive efficiency is a nice bonus as he enjoys a healthy 14 and 14 average this past month. His defensive contributions remain as well as his paint presence adds to Chicago’s 93 opponent PPG and 43% opponent shooting percentage: second and third best in the league, respectively.
Check out Joakim’s box score-stuffing performance in the Bulls’ triple OT marathon against Orlando. You expect his high activity on the boards, but his nose for the ball doesn’t stop at there. The Bulls rarely draw plays for this man but his garbage points come up huge in struggle games like this.
Keep in mind Chicago didn’t play well midway in second half and Noah had a huge part in turning things around. His closeouts, positions which forced Orlando into tough J’s, major rebounds, key passes and a huge block on Victor Oladipo helped seal a win which felt out of grasp during regulation.
Joakim’s game isn’t pretty but it works. It’s hard to locate other centers adept at cleaning the glass, interior defense passing and finishing under the basket. Some may hate to admit it but these aspects make Joakim Noah an exceptional, albeit awkward talent among his peers.
What about this kid
Like from Pac Div D.J. Augustin, though? The UT product has been a middle-of-the-run point guard in his five prior NBA seasons. Bulls fans must not have had high expectations as a would-be back up for Derrick Rose. He put up some respectable performances in between a few stinkers when Rose went down. Then, he really came into his own in the past two weeks while rocking Lil’ Troy’s “Wanna Be A Baller” for inspiration. That’s exactly how he turned the corner; I’m sure of it.
Augustin’s largely been unreal from the field and hits nearly three triples a night at around 46% shooting. Most of the damage he deals comes from scoring but, when he’s making plays for others and getting buckets, he’s at his best. Watch this highlight reel where he racks up 20 points and 12 dimes in a win against the Charlotte Bobcats.
A few of Augustin’s assists come from simple play execution. Pay special attention to how D.J. exploits Charlotte’s rotations, double teams and freezes on pick-and-rolls. He also knows when to pick his battles against Charlotte’s bigs later in the game.
Notice how he draws enough attention away from Charlotte’s front court assignments to give Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer easy shot opportunities. There’s little need to sweat his three turnovers if he’s creating a high clip of high percentage baskets shown above. Chicago’s features one of the league’s worst offenses in total PPG so this kind of vision really helps their cause.
Fans have seen Joakim Noah step up before: especially throughout last season and the first round of the playoffs. His output shouldn’t raise as many eyebrows privy to his wily style. Many of his points come from second chances, converting cuts and pick and rolls at the rim. It’s not like he can suddenly lose a jumper or move/counter move in the post he never had.
Augustin remains liable to revert to his “he’s alright but he’s not real” ways given his history. Then again, Kirk Hinrich’s out for a week at the moment and easily behind D.J. in the rotation. Mike James is…Mike James and must be one hell of an extortionist to have his roster spot. The starting job is Augustin’s to lose and he may be at the brink of turning the corner in his career. His upside goes further than a hot shooting streak as he’s making better decisions with the ball on a nightly basis. Take note at how his performance affects Chicago’s efforts going forward.
Also, should Noah or Augustin fall off, you can expect Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and Carlos Boozer to fill in the gaps when the Lord shines upon his hair paint. Either that or they lose big and let these lower seeds move up the Leastern Conference standings.
Hey, that’s cool too and I have no problem with it.