Joakim Noah is just two years removed from winning the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award, making an All-Star appearance and being a fourth-place finisher in MVP voting.
And now? His name comes up when media people talk about the Bulls dumping baggage.
NBA "insider'' David Thorpe is the source of the rumor, speaking on Zach Lowe's podcast and saying:
“Joakim Noah is sitting there in the last year of his contract. I think his go-to would be Dallas, who’s so desperate for that kind of energy again on defense. We know Rick Carlisle is so good at creating things and Joakim’s such a great ball-handler. I think he would be amazing there.”
But wait. Noah is no longer an NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year candidate, no longer destined to make All-Star appearances, no longer figuring in the MVP voting. He is, in fact, coming off the bench this year in Chicago and when he does get on the floor, he's averaging just three points (though with 8.5 rebounds a game) ... and he is not "amazing'' in terms of his shooting percentages: He's around 30 percent both from the field and from the line.
Yet this story has taken off. ESPN is talking about it ... because ESPN kind of originated it. We're talking about it on DB.com Boards (because trades are fun!) ... and SI.com affiliate Fansided goes so far to write, "Apparently, the Dallas Mavericks are interested in acquiring the 30-year-old big man.''
The truth: There isn't trade talk like this inside of Mavs HQ, in large part because in the NBA, just-acquired free-agent players (as so many are in this era) are ineligible to be dealt until Dec. 15. Also a factor is owner Mark Cuban's traditional belief that his teams should be allowed time to grow organically. That doesn't mean the Mavs don't take fence-swings; the Rondo trade last year happened on Dec. 19, two months before the mid-February deadline.
But all of this means a what-if Dallas trade would be a "maybe eventually'' thing ... as Cuban and The Triangle of Trust decide just how viable this 9-7 club's playoff chances might be.
If they ever get to that point, observers have already carved out Noah-to-Dallas scenarios. Fansided says:
*"Certainly draft picks would be part of the deal.''
*"The Bulls would probably not' be interested in Justin Anderson.''
*"What about the possibility of a three-team trade? If a team like Memphis decided they were interested in a package of Anderson, Barea and possibly Pachulia, the Bulls hypothetically could land another wing such as Courtney Lee or Tony Allen.''
Wait a sec.
The concept of Noah-to-Dallas is predicated on something Fansided buries inside its wildy-speculative piece: That Zaza Pachulia would be a throw-in to leave because Noah would be taking his place.
Go back to those things Thorpe said about Noah: “Energy on defense. ... a great ball-handler. ... amazing (fit) there.”
I promise you if you ask the Triangle of Trust who they believe matches those three descriptions, Cuban, Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle would all say: Zaza Pachulia.
There are those inside the Mavs building who have always liked Joakim Noah ... but the organization does NOT favor him over Zaza Pachulia. And based on their respective performances, they shouldn't. They are both energetic, skilled, effort guys, but Zaza has (beyond his numbers, which blow away Noah's) the endorsement of teammates like Dirk Nowitzki, who says Pachulia is "the ultimate teammate.''
Maybe there is a time when Chicago opts to move off of Noah's $13-million final year, and obviously Noah will be much, much more affordable next summer (as this is the final year of his deal) if Dallas sees him as the match that ESPN does. But presently? Dallas traded "air'' for Pachulia and his final-year deal pays him $5.2 mil.
Zaza is everything Joakim Noah now can only dream to be ... And while the national media might not see it that way, The Triangle of Trust does.