Reports surfaced Wednesday around noon indicating that Chicago Bulls' center Joakim Noah may be on his way out of the Windy City. An anonymous Bulls' player told the Chicago Sun-Time's Joe Cowley that "[Noah] has no trust in the front office getting [the team] going in the right direction" and that he has been telling teammates recently that he will not be back.
In a podcast posted to their website, WGN's (a Chicago-based news station for those who are unaware) Sam Panayotovich stated that Noah moving on makes sense for the big man as he doesn't fit into the more fast-paced system implemented by head coach Fred Hoiberg at the beginning of last season, and because he is more suited for a system similar to that of old coach (and new Wolves' coach) Tom Thibodeau.
At his peak, Noah was arguably one of the best two-way big men in the NBA. While he was never much of an offensive threat beyond the painted area, Noah's deft passing and lockdown defense helped drive some of the more successful Bulls' seasons in recent memory. Since Noah was drafted by Chicago before the 2007-08 season, the Bulls have reached the playoffs seven times, including losing to the Big Three lead Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010-11 season. Noah is also a two-time All-Star (2012-13 and 2013-14) and finished third in MVP voting during the 2013-14 season.
So, with the rumors of Noah's impending departure and the fact that Tom Thibodeau is the now the head coach of the Wolves, naturally, the question to ask is: Should the Wolves sign Joakim Noah this summer? That depends on a few variables.
As history has shown, Noah would thrive in Tom Thibodeau's system, both offensively and defensively, but the important question here is would he be content with non-starter minutes? Noah isn't as spry as he once was with his last two seasons being drastically cut short due to injuries (he had arthroscopic left knee surgery in 2014-15 and shoulder surgery this past season). It was reported at the beginning of last season that Noah wasn't happy coming off the bench in Chicago, a role that would probably make the most sense for him not only in Minnesota, but for pretty much any team who signs him.
If Thibodeau can convince Noah (and/or himself) to play for 25 minutes a game, it may cut down his injury risk as well as improve his quality of play; this would mean Noah would play a role similar to what Kevin Garnett has filled when he has been available to play. This begs the question: what does Noah bring to the table that Garnett doesn't already?
For starters, Noah would provide better offensive value than Garnett. Noah's effective field goal percentage has been declining at a steady pace since the 2010-11 season, but the value he brings would primarily be in the realms of passing and offensive rebounding, not in scoring. Noah has been regarded as one of the best passers for his position in the NBA since his rookie season and he has averaged around four assists per game over the last four seasons (his peak came during the 2013-14 season, in which he tallied 5.4 apg). In addition, other than his rookie season, Noah hasn't averaged less than three offensive rebounds per game, a feat Garnett only accomplished from 2001-2005 (a.k.a. Peak KG).
Starting Noah alongside Karl-Anthony Towns would be the foundation of an impenetrable defense and would allow for some fun offensive action being that both are pretty elite (or, more in the case of Towns, at least project to be) passers for their position. They would also form one of the better offensive rebounding front courts in the NBA.
Still, having both Garnett and Noah (and also oft-injured center Nikola Pekovic) on the roster would provide quite a bit of redundancy. All three are aging centers who are often injured and have similar roles. Signing Noah may hog-tie the Wolves should any or all three go down to injury at some point next season. The team would find themselves relying on Towns, Gorgui Dieng, and Nemanja Bjelica to log an exorbitant amount of minutes without much for a backup plan, not to mention a lot of money would then be invested in three players spending significant time in suits cracking jokes behind the bench.
And then there's this.
Could Noah and Garnett put aside their, uh, differences and work together to help make the Wolves a better team? I'm not sure.
Signing Noah has pros and cons for the Wolves. Would Noah be a good fit for Thibodeau's system? Yes. Would Noah make the Wolves a better team? Probably. But can Noah stay healthy? If the last two seasons are any indication, probably not. Could Noah put aside his differences with Garnett? Based on their history and on the fact that they'll be competing for essentially the same role, I think that may be doubtful.
So should the Wolves sign Joakim Noah? I think for the right price (and I don't know what that would be with the impending rise in the salary cap) it would be a good acquisition. It is still possible that Garnett will retire this summer, and if he doesn't, next season will most likely be his last anyway. Noah would help Thibodeau implement his system and could mentor the young Wolves as to what it takes to be a successful NBA player, especially under Thibs. He still has something left in the tank and a change in scenery may be just what the doctor ordered and may provide the jumpstart his career desperately needs. Only time will tell if the Wolves jump at the opportunity to sign him.