Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Bulls | April 9, 2014

When Derrick Rose went down for the Chicago Bulls earlier this season, it looked like the team’s title chances went down as well.

Thanks to center Joakim Noah, that’s not the case. Noah has made a case for the Defensive Player of the Year Award and should probably garner some MVP votes as well. The big man is averaging career-highs across the board: 12.5 points, 11.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. That’s a huge reason why the Bulls are tied for third place in the East right now.

“He’s been terrific. And it’s not only like the passing part, it’s the scoring part, the decision making, he’s gotten a lot more comfortable scoring the ball too, so teams that are sitting on his passes now, he’s making,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau after Wednesday morning’s shootaround at the Target Center. “He has to be played honestly. He’s scoring on the pick and roll, scoring in the post; he’s hitting that 16-17 foot jumper. But it’s all the things in totality.”

Noah’s become one of the most versatile players in the league and is probably the best passing center in the league, with no disrespect to Marc Gasol. And yes, Noah’s shot is an ugly one. It’s got some sort of side spin on it and even a guy like Kevin Martin would turn his head while looking at it, but hey, if it works it works.

Backup point guard D.J. Augustin has only played with the Bulls for 57 games this season, but he’s with Thibodeau on this one. Noah is the key to Chicago’s success this season.

“He makes it easy for everybody,” Augustin said. “He can pass, he can score and he plays defense. He’s our captain, he does it all for us.”

Timberwolves rookie center Gorgui Dieng will have his hands full tonight. Welcome to the league, rookie.

Where Did Augustin Come From?

Speaking of Augustin, he’s had quite the season. He started out with Toronto, playing just 8.2 minutes per game. After the Raptors signed Greivis Vasquez, they decided Augustin was expendable.

The Bulls lost Derrick Rose for the season. They needed a point guard. Augustin is a point guard. Welcome to Chicago, D.J.

Since then, Augustin has been a spark plug for the Bulls, playing 30.4 minutes per night, averaging career-highs of 14.6 points and 5.1 assists per game. So, why has he been able to play so well in Chicago?

“We run a lot of pick and rolls. That’s something I’m familiar with,” Augustin said. “A lot of passing and just playing basketball. Nobody on this team is selfish, nobody has an ego, so it’s easy.”

After Rose’s injury, the ageless wonder Kirk Hinrich and Augustin have taken over the point guard position and things have gone well.

It will be interesting if the Raptors and Bulls somehow matchup in the playoffs. Revenge series for Augustin?

Quick Hits

  • Thibodeau said that Rose has been doing well with rehab and his spirits are up: “He’s feeling great which is the encouraging thing. He’s bouncing all over the place. You know the rehab’s going very well.”

  • Tonight’s tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Target Center. The game will air on Fox Sports North and WCCO 830-AM.

  • For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.