As we wait for our hero and spiritual leader* to return (he practiced sorta today!), it's nice to dream of what the team will be like. Strength of schedule aside, the defense has proven to stay steady in his absence, but it's on the offensive end where Noah is missed more. For a team that needs playmakers outside of Derrick Rose, Noah is an unexpected yet consistent threat, whereas the only thing Kurt Thomas can be counted on is hiking up the front of his jersey after every whistle.
Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago got some juicy quotes from Rose about what he's figuring will change:
"It's going to be like an uptempo type game. Kurt [Thomas], with him, you've got to slow things down a little bit. Or you can't keep running up and down with him. But he's been doing a great job for us, trying to do it. But Joakim, when he comes back, I think we'll be back getting more easy points and fast-break points. But we're just going to have to live with Kurt right now. He's been doing great for us, until Joakim comes back."
Very diplomatic (and appropriately so, Kurt's OK by me) way of saying this old man is slowing my fast don't lie.
And indeed, by running some quick numbers from Hoopdata, one can see the Bulls in the games since Noah played thumbless in Toronto have been averaging just under 91 possessions per game. For the season up to that point, it was around 96.5.
A pretty drastic change (though again, not considering the opposition). Sustaining that prior mark would put them currently 2nd in the NBA, whereas the Kurt Thomas era is near the bottom-3rd of all teams.
Adding Noah back into the lineup will open that dimension back up, as while I don't think that the defensive-focused Thibs hates a slow place it's always great to have added transition opportunities as an option. Making Asik the backup C helps in that regard too, as few run the floor like him.
And then they can get really crazy by getting Ronnie Brewer as the starter at SG, and Derrick Rose can improve on the 4 or 5 lobs he's thrown in his entire career????
Maybe that's all just for my selfish aesthetic desires, slow and winning works just as well. And if the adage of a slower-paced playoffs holds true, the Bulls will need Kurt Thomas, maybe at points moreso than even Noah.
Situational, of course. But forget playoff matchups for now, it'll be fun to see the fast-paced Bulls return next week.
*whereas here I'm your hero and spiritual leader, of course.