It wasn't that long ago (two seasons to be exact) that the pairing of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson was arguably the best defensive frontcourt in the NBA. In the 2013-14 season, Tom Thibodeau would go to the Noah/Gibson frontcourt with a lead down the stretch and it was wrap. Shut down. Fin.
These days, the once-feared Noah-Gibson duo is simply depressing to watch. After the 130-105 debacle against the Hornets, that duo has given up 104.5 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. And lest I remind you that this pairing also bad last year, as they had a 104.8 defensive rating together.
Because I hate myself, I rewatched the first half of the Hornets disaster. It was even more painful to watch the second time around. The defense was so mind-numbingly awful on all levels, and Noah and Gibson were the culprits on many of the breakdowns, although they weren't helped out by pitiful perimeter defense.
Case in point:
What in God's name is Aaron Brooks doing here? He got caught in La-La Land and then Taj didn't rotate down in time (worried about Cody Zeller beyond the arc) and it resulted in Jeremy Lin free throws.
Here, Doug McDermott left his frontcourt mates out to dry by getting burned on a pump fake, but pretty pitiful effort by Noah on the rotation:
On this next one, Noah kind of halfheartedly took a swipe at Lin in the paint, and then halfheartedly closed out on Hawes, who canned a three over him:
We're not done. Here, Gibson got caught up on Hawes, putting him out of position to shut down a Zeller drive to the basket:
These next two just made me slap my head in dismay:
Again, Noah and Gibson are far from the only culprits here for the poor defensive effort, but it's stunning to see these two struggle so much together on that end when they were so dominant just two years ago. We all expect Pau Gasol to be a traffic cone defensively at this point, but not Taj and Jo. They're supposed to be the defensive stoppers in the frontcourt, and it's just not happening right now.
And that's not even touching the dreadful offense when they're on the floor together. They have an 85.4 offensive rating when they share the floor, and it's no surprise why when a decent amount of the minutes together come with the "Hoibergo" lineup that often results in Aaron Brooks firing up a questionable shot.
With Noah and Gibson struggling offensively, the spacing with that unit is toast, even with Doug McDermott on the floor. Noah is such a non-threat that teams simply don't care about him (he has 10 points and 11 turnovers thus far), and Gibson still too often tries to force things in the post. The issue sometimes gets compounded when Noah tries to force post entries to Gibson:
Yes, that resulted in a turnover, one of four on the night for Jo.
So what's the solution here? Does Fred Hoiberg break these two up and go with different primary big man pairings (Ironically, Hoiberg cited Noah talking about liking playing alongside Taj as a reason for the starting lineup decision.)? Does he try to ride it out? I'm willing to give them more time (not the Hoibergo though, at least not for long stretches), but we need to see some drastic improvement. It's just painful to watch right now right now.