Joakim Noah: Will This Be His Last Season With The Chicago Bulls?

Dec 19, 2015; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) drives to the basket against Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 19, 2015; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) drives to the basket against Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports /

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah will have shoulder surgery that may sideline him for the rest of the season.

Two seasons ago, Joakim Noah and the Chicago Bulls had not even made it to the midpoint of the season, but were in dire straits nonetheless. Not only was Derrick Rose lost for the season with another knee injury, but Luol Deng, who was considered the team’s beat all-around player, was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

At that point in time, the Bulls were 12-18 and the idea of them somehow making the playoffs was a long shot at best. However, thanks to former coach Tom Thibodeau’s decision to run the offense through Noah, the Bulls made an improbable run to the playoffs, concluding the campaign with 34 wins over the final 48 games, and they finished with the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference.

With an increased role in the offense, Noah had his best season in a Bulls uniform, posting career highs in points (12.6), rebounds (11.3) and assists per game (5.4). Along with that, Noah’s assists-per-game average were the most by a center since Sam Lacey recorded 5.7 per outing in 1980, per CSNChicago.

As a result of such an outstanding season, Noah went on to win the Defensive Player of the Year award; was named to the All-Defensive first team and finished fourth in MVP voting behind Blake Griffin, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Needless to say, things were trending upward for the nine-year veteran at that point in time.

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Unfortunately for Noah, the joy of what he accomplished during that memorable season would be short-lived. Not only did Noah have offseason knee surgery, but he spent most of the 2014-15 campaign hobbled and his production dipped a bit, as he averaged 7.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per outing in 67 appearances.

Coming into this season, however, Noah was confident that he would return to form. This confidence was mostly due to a rigorous offseason regimen. But even before the Bulls played their first game under new coach Fred Hoiberg, it was decided that Noah would come off the bench, which marked the first time since midway through his second season that he would not be in the starting lineup.

In spite of that, Noah appeared to be turning the corner about a month ago in a road game against the New York Knicks. In that contest, Noah scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to go along with a pair of assists. A few nights later, however, Noah injured his shoulder against the Brooklyn Nets and was out of action for three weeks.

Upon his return to the lineup, Noah expressed his frustration with being relegated to the second unit. But in spite of that frustration, the Bulls big man opted to focus on how he could contribute to the team rather than his personal feelings about having a reduced role.

"“I mean, I don’t know what to say,” Noah said in an recent interview with the Chicago Tribune. “I wasn’t expecting to play such a limited role,” Noah said. “I’m trying to stay focused on what I can do to help. That’s it.“It’s not about complaining. It’s about trying to find solutions. I want to be part of solutions and try to help figure it out.”"

In light of recent events, though, it seems Noah will not get that chance thanks to a shoulder injury he suffered against the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 15, which will force him to miss approximately four to six months, effectively ending his season.

What it means: For starters, rookie forward Bobby Portis — whose minutes were reduced when Noah returned to the lineup — should see significant playing time going forward. In addition to that, with Noah becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer, the outing against the Mavericks may have been his last game in a Bulls uniform.

Team outlook: To say the very least, the front office will need to decide to how reassemble the roster. The consensus was that this team could make a deep postseason run as long as everyone was healthy. But with Noah out of the mix, the chances of that coming to fruition are between slim and none.

Furthermore, the Bulls may also want to consider dealing Pau Gasol being that he has stated that he will more than likely opt out of third year of his contract and test the free agent market. Yes, I understand the Bulls would miss having a low-post scorer who is also a solid presence on the glass (10.8 RPG).

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At the same time, however, the window for this group winning a championship has officially closed and it would be best if management began making moves that would put them in a better situation to potentially compete for a title in the future.