Wednesday afternoon, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that center Joakim Noah has told some teammates that his time with the Chicago Bulls is up. According to the article, Noah has gotten fed up with Chicago's front office and he doesn't trust them to get the franchise moving in the right direction. As a result, Noah, who's slated to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent this summer, will likely be suiting up in a different uniform next season.
The 31-year-old center has played his entire nine-year NBA career with the Bulls, though he was limited to just 29 games last season due to injury. He started just two of those 29 games, though, as Fred Hoiberg moved him to the bench during training camp. In just under 22 minutes a night, Noah averaged a career-worst in points per game (4.3) to go along with 8.8 rebounds and a block.
Though Noah is coming off perhaps the worst season of his career, he still figures to have a fair number of suitors once he hits the open market. Could the Clippers be among them? LAC faces some uncertainty regarding the backup center spot, as Cole Aldrich will almost surely be a part of the free agency frenzy, as well. Aldrich can opt-out of the $1.2 million he's owed next season and figures to be in line for a substantial raise following an impressive stint as (first team All-NBA center) DeAndre Jordan's primary backup.
Based on Doc Rivers's comments from just after the end of the season, it sounds as though he wants to bring Aldrich and the rest of the team back for the 2016-17 campaign. Cole's value would appear to have increased enough, and Noah's decreased enough, to where it seems reasonable that both of them could end up getting something in the neighborhood of the midlevel exception on the market.
Noah has had his fair share of injuries in recent years, but he was still the league's Defensive Player of the Year back in 2014. Not all players are created equally, but at 31 you'd think he would still have a few years left in that body if he can remain somewhat healthy. He may have some offers from teams that could give him a starting job again, but let's say for the sake of this argument that he's more interested in chasing a ring. As a result, he's theoretically intrigued by the possibility of being D.J.'s backup.
At this stage of their respective careers, in what area is Joakim superior to Cole? Noah's passing and playmaking ability has been second to none among centers throughout his tenure with the Bulls, and that would seem to be an aspect of his game that won't be hampered much by his injury history. Other than that, though? Aldrich is likely the slightly better rebounder, shot-blocker and finisher around the rim.
Cole showed this past season that he can be dangerous rolling to the bucket after setting screens, while Noah's shooting percentages have fallen off a cliff. He shot just 38.7% within five feet of the rim last season. Sure, the aforementioned 29-game sample size is fairly small, but he was awful in that area in 67 games in 2014-15, too (via NBA.com):
For comparison's sake, Aldrich converted on over 60% of his looks from that range. That's not exactly elite, but it's quite solid and obviously far better than the sub-50% finishing from Joakim Noah.
Unless Noah is able to get his body right and discover the elusive fountain of youth, it's difficult to imagine him returning to that 2014 form that saw him finish in the top-five of MVP voting. He'll be a positive locker room presence for whichever team winds up signing him, but in terms of age and tangible basketball production Cole Aldrich looks like a better option for the Clips.