Joakim Noah has spent his entire career with the Chicago Bulls as a primal engine who symbolized the heart and grit and grubby intangibles that team came to be known for when it reigned atop the Eastern Conference with Tom Thibodeau barking orders from the sideline. They were a great tandem, Thibs and Noah.
And with the 31-year-old entering unrestricted free agency this summer, don’t be surprised if he reunites with the coach who oversaw his greatest individual success by signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves (via Sporting News):
Noah appeared in only 29 games last season. He came off the bench 27 times, averaged 4.3 points per game and shot 38.3 percent from the field, with a higher turnover percentage than assist rate. In short, it was the worst year of Noah’s career.
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Injuries played a role in Noah’s struggle, as did the awkward and unwanted demotion by a new head coach who failed trying to implement a brand new system. It’s understandable that Noah wants to seek out a different situation in a new environment.
And it makes sense, kind of, for that fresh start to be in Minnesota. Despite his age and offensive limitations, a weak free agency pool and rising salary cap will help Noah earn a whole bunch of money this summer. He was an MVP candidate two years ago, and the thought of rekindling that fire should stoke at least a few general managers around the league.
The Timberwolves have enough cap space to offer a respectable contract, but should they? Noah doesn’t really fit their timeline, and he isn’t the most complementary piece to add around young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Bringing him in as a mentor doesn’t feel right just yet. Noah isn’t washed up entirely. But on a one or two-year deal, with Thibs leading the way, he may be able to get his career back on track.
Noah can defend and pass, and he’s well familiar with Thibodeau’s system and ritualistic demands. It’s no match made in heaven, but both sides can benefit if Noah climbs aboard.