Joakim Noah: Chicago Bulls Center Becoming a Premier Big Man in NBA

Mike Moraitis@@michaelmoraitisAnalyst IMarch 1, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 28: Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls walks to the foul line on his way to a triple-double against the Phildelphia 76ers at the United Center on February 28, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the 76ers 93-82. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Joakim Noah's latest stellar performance against the Philadelphia 76ers in a winning effort for the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night is yet another reminder that the center is becoming a premier big man in the NBA.

Noah finished with a triple-double against the Sixers with 23 points on 66 percent shooting, 21 rebounds and an astounding 11 blocks for the Bulls.

The ESPN Stats & Info Twitter page had a great tweet that put Noah's game into a historical perspective:

One more via ELIAS: Joakim Noah: 1st player in NBA history with 20+ points, 20+ rebounds, 10 blocks and 65% shooting from field in game

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 1, 2013

In a season without Derrick Rose, the Bulls have seen their center step up in every way possible en route to a career-best season.

Noah is averaging 11.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.1 blocks per contest (through 53 games)—all career highs. Numbers like those show that the Florida product is a great all-around big man who can no longer be overlooked by the rest of the league.

His rebound total is good for No. 6 in the NBA, he's No. 7 in blocks per game and Noah's steal totals are fourth-best among centers.

With his great showing on the defensive end this season, Noah is one of the favorites to land the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award as the anchor of one of the best defenses in all of basketball.

That great defense has been the major reason why the Bulls have been able to survive without their best player.

The 28-year-old has also shown a vast improvement in his offensive game by developing a solid mid-range jump shot (no matter how ugly it looks) that must be respected by opposing defenses.

Furthermore, Noah is becoming an excellent passer as he's upped his assist average by nearly two dimes per game from last season.

Noah isn't even a liability at the free-throw line down the stretch of games, which is often rare for big men nowadays.

Those are all the great qualities in Noah's repertoire that can be measured, but he does have some intangibles as well. Noah brings so much energy and intensity to both sides of the floor that it becomes infectious to the rest of his teammates.

He can also play the role of agitator—just ask the New York Knicks.

There is no denying that Noah has arrived, and he can be placed in the conversation with some of the top bigs in the league today. It's a good thing the Bulls have him locked up for the next few seasons because Noah is playing his way to an even bigger payday than he gets with his current deal.