Now starting... At Center... Number 13... JOOOOAKIIIIIIMM NOOOOOAAAAHHHH!!!!! Ahhh music that soothes the soul. I think that every Bulls fan has been waiting patiently but expectantly for the return of Joakim. I think that it is quite comparable to the excitement after a big trade. Although this season has been so much more than any of us predicted, just the opportunity to finally see our own Big 3.5 (Luol only counts as .5) come together is what I'm most excited for. If you for some unimaginable reason do not understand why, please just read from David Thorpe: "Hmmm, super athletic and coordinated 7 footer with excellent passing talent, good ball skills, great hoops IQ, won a state title and 2 national titles within 4 yrs of each other, who is the second best help defender in the league and plays as hard as possible every possession while not at all caring about personal stats? Oh, and he's the best NBA teammate behind Tim Duncan."
While many Bulls fans may not be a huge fan of David Thorpe for his views on Derrick Rose's MVP candidacy, he is still a very credible source for basketball analysis. He was even able to workout with Joakim during the All-Star weekend (which resulted in more glowing praise for Joakim: "He literally shocked me. Looks incredible. His strength coach videtaped some of the sessions, so I'd guess they will be online soon. He's a beast in every sense, and has the best motor I've ever been on the court with.") Put this man next to Carlos Boozer with Rose up top? And is there a frontcourt in the NBA that complement each other so freakin' perfectly? This is going to be some kind of fun.
Now that we've gotten past the bro love, I want to talk about how Joakim is going to put the Bulls mano-a-mano with the Celtics and Heat. Offense. Plain and simple. According to any advanced statistical model, the Bulls are the best defensive team in the NBA. Will Joakim make us better? Of course. But the question is to what degree. There is only so much additional defensive gain that we can achieve with Joakim's return. Imagine trying to go after that final piece of pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving Dinner that included a turducken, a whole pig (face, tongue, everything) that was roasted on a spit ala Lord of the Flies, and a deep fried turkey. It's overkill. Delicious but your stomach can only hold so much food. That's what inserting Joakim into the starting lineup is going to be like. I realize that no combination of Omer and Kurt (Omurt?) can replace a Joakim Noah. However, they were pretty close. In addition, there is one attribute to Kurt Thomas that Joakim can't truly match. The mean streak. At a certain age, people start to get... um... ornery. Kurt Thomas has reached that age. Kurt is a bonafide bruiser who will stand and bump with the larger centers in the league. That's very useful. While Joakim is light years ahead of Kurt's pick and roll defense, Joakim is just not as strong as Kurt.
But on offensive side of the court? That's where Joakim can truly outdistance himself from Kurt and Omer (Kurmer?). We are currently below league average when concerning team PPG, O-Rating and or anything else. While Kurt has a certain knack for the worse shot in basketball history, the long-but-not-quite-3-point-long jumper, and Omer has a panache for those offensive rebounds, Joakim can combine and outdo both. Then there's the rolling component of a pick and roll. When was the last time we saw Kurt even attempt a dive into the lane off of a pick? This causes undo stress upon D. Rose when three defenders suddenly decide to swarm him. That third defender is obviously sagging off of Keith Bogans because, well, he's Keith Bogans. It is immensely frustrating to watch as Derrick has to routinely deal with a barrage of double and triple teams with limited outlets. But with Joakim in there, opponents can't so easily leave the lane. Joakim adds a bevy of new options for that offense. Joakim can drive and finish. Joakim can pop and use that above average mid-range jumper. Joakim can post and look for that mini-hook that he loves with his left hand. Joakim can run and open up our fast-break game. Or Joakim can pass. And that could be his greatest contribution to this team with respect to Thomas and Asik (their names don't work). If you have any doubts, please try to recall November 24th game against the Suns. If you've forgotten, review here: http://espn.go.com/blog/chicago/bulls/post/_/id/2324/noahs-backdoor-pass-to-rose-keys-bulls-win. K and O would not have been able to pull that off. And that god forsaken zone defense that always makes us look rudderless? Get the ball to Joakim at the elbow, at the heart of that defense, and let him dissect it like Doogie Howser. There is a reason that Joakim's O-Rating is at the top or near the top of the team.
(By the by, if you have any Filipino friends, get invited to their Thanksgiving.)